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Darnay Holmes balances swagger and modesty as he aims to make a mark with the Giants

The young CB faces heightened pressure heading into the 2020 season to help an undermanned Giants secondary

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There is a fine line between ego and confidence on the football field and 2020 fourth-round draft pick Darnay Holmes knows how to walk it.

“It’s really having compassion and being a humble guy,” Holmes said. “At the end of the day, I was in a lot of other people’s shoes. Come from a broken family, coming from certain different things. There are things I went through in the past that definitely strike a fire in me but also humbles me.”

Holmes was faced specifically with the challenge of maintaining the balance between swagger and modesty during Friday’s scrimmage.

The young cornerback out of UCLA intercepted a pass by Daniel Jones intended for Golden Tate when he read the play correctly and jumped the route.

Yet in his excitement upon picking the ball off, Holmes forgot to secure the ball on the return and fellow 2020 draft pick Andrew Thomas punched it loose for a fumble.

High’s and low’s.

For Joe Judge, the play was a teaching moment, especially for an undermanned Giants secondary that is looking to fill the loss of DeAndre Baker, who was put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List following his arrest and Sam Beal, who opted out of the season due to coronavirus concerns. The Giants secondary has ranked in the bottom-three in the league in passing yards allowed in two of the last three seasons.

“Just getting schooled up about ball security,” Holmes said about his coach’s reaction to the play. “Learning pretty much. Having the understanding that I’m a developing professional so there is a lot of things I need to learn and be open to learning those things and applying those things once you make that mistake.”

Just as Holmes was quick to celebrate his interception, he is just as willing to recognize his mistakes.

“Every drill I’m doing, trusting it,” Holmes said. “Claiming the lessons of the mistake I made in that drill or certain reps in the summer. Really just being able to move accordingly and know what I need to do and what I should stay away from.”

The willingness to make mistakes and learn from them has prevented Holmes from being overwhelmed with the transition to the NFL. He credits his sense of calm to the veterans on the team.

“The group of guys we have around us – we have a lot of mentors, a lot of veterans, a lot of guys who have been around,” Holmes said. “I have always been a person that seeks knowledge. By seeking knowledge, you are able to use that and store it and have it around you so you are able to maneuver accordingly.”

Holmes may trust himself, but the Giants staff and fans have high hopes for the rookie who will be tasked with helping to turn the secondary around in the absence of Baker and Beal.

“I respect everything that is going on around our building,” Holmes said. “Everybody is following the set standards and really me just abiding by that set standard and having that faith that when the time comes, we are going to be ready for anything that comes our way.”

Approaching the transition to the NFL one day at a time is especially important this season amidst the coronavirus uncertainty. Though there has been a quick turnaround for every NFL player this season, particularly rookies, Holmes remains unfazed.

“Really just slowing things down,” Holmes said. “Having the understanding that certain shifts and certain things that the offense is doing is not in my control. Really just an even keel mind, a mind that’s really just being still and at peace with everything that’s going on around me.”

This understanding has prevented Holmes from feeling too intimidated by the experienced receivers he has covered in Giants practice and will cover against other teams once the 2020 season begins.

“Just trusting your technique and having patience,” Holmes said. “Being able to snap it clearly, line back up and have an understanding that you are supposed to be here and trust what you have going on.

That mental strength is what Holmes believes separates him from other young players trying to make their mark in the league.

“Having the most faith,” Holmes said. “Unwavering faith and belief in myself and pretty much the scheme that I’m being surrounded by.

“Understanding that the Lord is along side of me. It’s not a battle of flesh and blood but it’s really a battle between your ears which is your mental state. Really going up there with the utmost confidence and focused approach about the task at hand.”