practice squad the first chance they could get in 2011, and then made sure no one stole him away in December by signing him to the 53-man roster.
That year was invaluable to the small-school receiver.
"I learned a lot coming from Division II. You know, there is good competition in Division II, but there is a difference in how you do things from the college level to the professional level, and that's what I learned in training camp (with the Vikings), then when I came here and was practicing every day," Holmes said. "I learned some things that I'm using now, and you just learn to be a pro and fully commit yourself to being a better player."
So taking what he did last year, plus his work during these past three days of OTAs, Holmes has pushed his name at least into the Cowboys' receiving corps conversation. They certainly will keep five, maybe even six if enough guys force the issue. Figure it this way, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are givens. That's two. Kevin Ogletree currently is the only other receiver on the 90-man roster with an NFL catch. But remember, he's no sure thing. Ogletree has only 15 receptions in three seasons with the Cowboys and was signed to only a fourth-year minimum salary contract. The Cowboys didn't even bother to protect his restricted free-agent rights with a tender. So that says a lot, even though everyone contends Ogletree seems to have his head on straight so far this offseason and is working hard.
After that, well, it's a tight but wide-open race. First-year receiver Raymond Radway, from equally small Abilene Christian College, would have made the team last year as a long shot had he not broken his leg on the final play of the final preseason game. He's back, and already out there working. Then there is last year's sixth-round pick Dwayne Harris, who did make the 53-man roster but only returned kicks.
After that, well, there is this year's fifth-round pick Danny Coale, but unfortunately he'll enter training camp already behind the 8-ball. He fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on Tuesday, and after Thursday's surgery to insert a screw to facilitate healing, likely won't be available until the start of training camp at the earliest. There are some rookie free agents drawing attention, too. Guys like SMU's Cole Beasley and Tennessee Tech's Tim Benford and the speedy Saalim Hakim.
And, of course, if push comes to shove and none of these guys shows enough to earn that third receiver spot – or more importantly, the backup starter position should Austin or Bryant go down – there always is the eventual free-agent field the Cowboys can tap into if needed.
So if you are handicapping this competition, no need to downgrade Holmes just because he spent 13 weeks on the practice squad last year or because he played his ball at Hillsdale College. He's right in the thick of this group. And remember, at least the owner, president and general manager knows his name, and if the first three OTAs mean anything, at least Tony Romo already understands throwing the ball up to a 6-5 guy with leaping ability and long arms is a real good proposition, especially when he keeps coming down with the ball.
"All I got to do is work hard, that's the bottom line," Holmes said. "And if I work hard I'm going to get better, and then maybe I'll get some playing time."
And then everybody just might know his name.