Holmes, a former Mountaineer, came to WVU in 1995 from Hampton University, where he had served for the past three seasons as linebacker coach and defensive coordinator. He had previous coaching experience through internships with the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns at the professional level and New Haven University and Boston University at the collegiate level. He was a 12-year veteran of professional football.

Holmes sent four players into professional camps during his first two seasons at WVU. He also helped the 1996 Mountaineers defense rank first in the nation in total defense (217.5 yards per ameg), second in rushing (61.5 yards per game), fourth in scoring defense (12.4 points per game), and fifth in passing efficiency defense (86.8). The Mountaineers committed the fewest turnovers of any team nationally (10) and WVU's turnover margin (+1.27) was second in the country.

At WVU, Holmes played free safety and earned all East Honors and totaled 175 career tackles, captaining the 1979 squad and winning that year's Ira E. Rodgers Award. After his playing days at WVU ended, Holmes went to the New York Jets and played from 1980-1983 and 1986-86. He also played for the USFL's Pittsburgh Maulers (1984) and New Jersey Generals (1985) and the NFL's Detroit Lions (1988-1989) and Green Bay Packers (1990-91).