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Ernie Holmes, 59, preacher, former Pittsburgh Steeler

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jeff Carlton
Associated Press / January 20, 2008

DALLAS - Ernie Holmes settled into a quiet life as a preacher in rural Texas after his "stone crazy" days with Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defenses.

Mr. Holmes, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers, died Thursday night after his car left a road and rolled several times near Lumberton, about 80 miles from Houston, a Texas Department of Public Safety dispatcher said. He was 59.

Mr. Holmes, driving alone and not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and died at the scene, the department said.

The Steelers remembered him as a devastating and intimidating force on the field. He also had his moments off the field.

Mr. Holmes told Time magazine in 1975 that he was "stone crazy," mostly because of a case early in his career when he pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon following a bizarre episode in which he fired a pistol at trucks and a police helicopter. He was sentenced to five years' probation.

"Ernie was an original. He was out there," said former Steelers receiver Lynn Swann, a teammate on Super Bowl-winning teams following the 1974 and '75 seasons. "In today's environment, he may have spent a few hours in the commissioner's office."

Nicknamed "Fats" for most of his life, Mr. Holmes played for the Steelers from 1972 to 1977 before being released because of ongoing weight problems and spent part of the 1978 season with New England before retiring.

He was part of a famous front four that included "Mean" Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, and Dwight White.

After football, Mr. Holmes had minor acting roles. He appeared in an episode of the 1980s TV show "The A-Team" and dabbled in professional wrestling.

Eventually, though, he settled down on a ranch near tiny Wiergate, a town of 461 close to the Louisiana border. He was an ordained minister, had his own church, and told the Steelers he was a more "spiritual being."

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