Darnay Holmes looks to take chess skills to Giants’ secondary

Darnay Holmes looks to take chess skills to Giants’ secondary

Where he lines up with the Giants is not certain at this point, but Darnay Holmes sounds agreeable to moving anywhere the defensive coaching staff wants him to go.

The diminutive cornerback, taken Saturday in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, sounds agreeable to most everything. He understands there are many pieces on a board and whether you are a king, queen, rook, bishop or pawn, there is space for everyone.

Holmes graduated from UCLA in less than three years and along the way picked up the game of chess. He first noticed “several quarterbacks’’ engaging in the game and his interest was piqued.

“I’m the type of player that wants to get insight into everything that’s going on,’’ Homes said on a Zoom chat, “so I walked up to the chess master and asked him ‘Do you mind helping me out playing chess?’ ’’

Um, the chess master? Are these sort of individuals regularly roaming the UCLA campus?

“At UCLA you’re around different things, you have access to different pools of people,’’ Holmes said. “[Bruins coach] Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine, he made sure he brings people within the school who are going to be able to allow your mindset to reach that different frequency.’’

Darnay Holmes
Darnay HolmesAP

Holmes started a rush on defensive players on Day 3 of the NFL draft, as the Giants had seven picks. They went defense on six of them — two cornerbacks and four linebackers — and took only one offensive player, guard Shane Lemieux of Oregon.

Holmes, a three-year starter, is just 5-foot-10, seemingly making him a perfect fit to compete in the slot as a nickel back. He said he did not play inside in college but did work in the slot at the Senior Bowl. “And I loved it,’ he said.

The Giants are loading up on young defensive backs. In addition to Holmes, they took safety Xavier McKinney of Alabama in the second round. This adds to a returning group consisting of Jabrill Peppers (24), DeAndre Baker (22), Sam Beal (23), Corey Ballentine (23), Julian Love (21) and Grant Haley (23). In free agency, the Giants signed James Bradberry to be their No. 1 cornerback, and he is just 26.

Holmes’ father, Darick, spent five years in the NFL as a running back for the Bills, Packers and Colts. When Darnay was 12, he walked into a room and saw his father on a bed, shot seven times in a drug deal that went bad.

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“I know those days and those experiences only molded me into a better person, a better man,’’ Darnay Holmes said.

Darick Holmes survived, turned his life around and now speaks with youngsters about making the right choices in life.

“Definitely my Pops impacted me in a lot of ways,’’ Holmes said. “He is the person that installed that hustle and drive to compete each and every day, knowing there’s somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you.’’

Coming to the Giants, Holmes said his goal is “to just be a sponge’’ and take in everything he can. He might be able to rustle up a game of chess, as well.

“The reason I play chess is I only want to have efficient thoughts,’’ Holmes said. “I want to make sure I’m making forceful moves, I’m making everybody respond to things that I do. Everything that I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m gonna make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord.

“Chess is just a great thing for me to just get my mind off football but also get my mind in a state of being efficient with everything I do.’’

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