Detroit Lions GM candidate Brad Holmes has a first-round pick in his family tree

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Luther Bradley was in South Carolina a few years ago for his twin sister Lucinda’s retirement party when his nephew, Brad Holmes, the Los Angeles Rams’ director of college scouting, asked if he wanted to tag along that week to a Gamecocks spring practice.

Bradley, the Detroit Lions‘ first-round pick in 1978, happily agreed, and when he spent the day with Holmes, he was amazed by what he saw.

“Just the detail of the things that he was looking at,” Bradley recalled Wednesday. “I mean, most guys say, ‘Oh, he looks like he’s fast.’ Or, ‘He can turn his hips.’ Yeah, but he was looking at, ‘Do you think he has the right mentality to be a defensive back?’ Do you see any flaws in him?’ He really went into the detail of each individual guy that he was looking at. I was really impressed.”

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Holmes’ work with the Rams over the last 18 seasons has been impressive enough that the Lions interviewed him for their vacant general manager job Wednesday.

Though he lacks the GM experience of several of the Lions’ other candidates, Holmes, 41, has emerged as a serious contender for the job.

A former college defensive tackle at North Carolina A&T, Holmes went to work for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks after graduating, before transitioning to his real love: football.

He started as a personnel department intern, where his responsibilities included “picking up guys from the airport, fetching coffee, making copies,” he told the Tampa Bay Times, and quickly rose up the ranks of the organization, surviving two regime changes and a move from St. Louis to become one of the most trusted members of general manager Les Snead’s front office.

“He’s a sharp young man, extreme attention to detail. Very personable. Demands quality work out of his scouts,” said former Rams vice president of player personnel Tony Softli, Holmes’ one-time boss in St. Louis. “I’m glad he’s getting his name out there. I think there’s a couple guys that are probably going to be ahead of him from an experience standpoint, but if you want a young go-getter, align things up right and work with the coaches, the trainers, the communications department, the equipment guy, all that. He’s one of those guys, for sure.”

A team captain at North Carolina A&T, Holmes gets high marks for both his leadership ability and eye for talent; he has run the Rams’ drafts the last eight seasons.

He was part of the decision making team that took Aaron Donald with the 13th pick after the Lions passed on the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in favor of Eric Ebron.

He helped guide the selection of Jared Goff over Carson Wentz at No. 1 overall in 2016.

And he’s helped keep the organization competitive — the Rams are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, and reached the Super Bowl in 2018 — despite not having a first-round pick the last four years.

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Wide receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson stand out as recent hits from the middle rounds.

“He was actually working downstairs for communications, he was in the media (relations department) as an intern, and he was just a hungry guy, came up, was busting film down and just doing stuff like that and being around,” Softli said. “Somebody said to me, ‘Hey, this guy’s thinking about coming up here, he wants to come up and be a scout.’ I said, ‘Well, have him come talk to me.’ And after a conversation, it was obvious that’s where he wanted to be and that’s why he got in. He just wanted to get his foot in the door somewhere. And well deserved on pushing him up there.”

Holmes, who interviewed for the Atlanta Falcons GM job earlier this week, called Bradley after his interview with the Lions on Wednesday.

“The thing that I think he said they need and want is just the way the Rams are doing it, that continuity and to be able to confer back and forth with the coach to make it so everybody’s on the same page and you know where they’re heading and everybody’s going in the right direction and the same direction,” Bradley sad. “So he said that’s really what he brings to the table and hopefully it’ll all work out.”

If it does, Bradley, who played with the Lions from 1978-81 and still lives in the Detroit area, said it would be an amazing to watch his nephew make the Lions’ first-round pick this spring, two generations after he was a first-round pick for the team.

“Oh, man, that would be so exciting,” Bradley said. “I mean, besides the fact that he’s my nephew, but it’s just the fact it’s a family affair and it just seems like it’s the next progression. And I would have never thought that would ever happen. The only downside is that I’m sure all my friends who love the Lions would be saying, ‘Hey, man, your nephew drafted the wrong guy.’ Or I’d get all this flack all the time. But I’d welcome that. I’d welcome it. It’s OK.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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