The name Aaron Donald is synonymous with Pitt football. The name Aaron Donald is now almost synonymous with the NFL. And for DeeJay Holmes, that’s the dream he’s chasing.
“It means everything to me because, as you can see, somebody like Aaron Donald developed for Pitt,” Holmes told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “That makes me think, ‘OK, I can be just like that.’ Now, Aaron Donald is one of the most talked about people in the world. When you think about the NFL, somebody is going to say Aaron Donald. I want to be that person that you say, when you say think about the NFL or when you think about Pitt, they say DeeJay Holmes.”
Holmes, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound three-star defensive end from Pahokee High School in Florida, has seen how Pitt has developed defensive linemen from afar, and now he’s excited for the opportunity to take a closer look for himself.
With a June 2-4 official visit this week, Holmes’ first visit up to Pittsburgh, he’s not only looking forward to getting a look into the culture of Pitt football but also the individual players themselves.
“Realness,” Holmes said. “Realness with football, that family atmosphere. I’m really looking to study new defensive fronts, the fronts that they run and looking at other players’ games to see how I can compare that to mine and get better at my position.”
It’s the first official visit for Holmes, who will also be in Syracuse later this month, and it’s the result of Pitt’s work in establishing and building a relationship over the last few months. It all started with Charlie Partridge, but it’s grown even more because of Pat Narduzzi’s efforts.
“That bond with (Pitt), ever since that offer, it really has stocked up,” Holmes said. “For me, it’s been with coach Charlie (Partridge), the assistant, and I ain’t think it was gonna get bigger than coach Charlie. Then coach Pat (Narduzzi) reached out to me, and I had to search up who that was. And I found out, “Oh, that’s the main man. That’s the head coach.’ If the school that has the head coach talk to me, that’s a go-to school, I automatically gotta go to them.”
Pitt was the first school to lock Holmes in for an official visit which, when combined with that relationship he’s built with Narduzzi and Partridge, made it an easy decision to make an official out to Pittsburgh. After all, it’s the least he can do after Partridge made a visit out to Pahokee to watch Holmes live.
“(Partridge) loves my game,” Holmes said. “He really thinks — well, he knows my versatility. He knows that I’m very versatile, I can come off the edge or play a little outside linebacker as well. He fell in love with that when he first met me, and he came to one of my practices to see me live. He saw me playing lineman, outside linebacker, he saw the versatility that I have.”
As a versatile threat on Pahokee’s 9-2 squad in 2021, Holmes was the engine that powered the defense. In just nine games, he racked up 92 tackles (26 solo), 25.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles and recoveries.
For his efforts, helping to lead Pahokee to the FHSAA 1A regional finals, Holmes earned the Sun Sentinal 1A Defensive Player of the Year honors.
247Sports rates Holmes as the 69th-ranked edge rusher and the 116th-ranked recruit in Florida, On3 rates him as the 47th-ranked edge rusher and the 56th-ranked recruit from Florida and Rivals has given him a 5.7 Rivals Rating — On3’s consensus ranking has him as the 497th-ranked recruit in the class.
Holmes isn’t looking to make his official commitment until December, and he isn’t in any rush to choose his destination for the next four years, but Pitt has been able to stand out to this point.
“Pitt is top three,” Holmes said. “Well, I’d say really they’re the one right about now. Pitt is the one right now. But they’re top three for sure.”
Holmes will be joined by 2023 commits in four-star quarterback Kenny Minchey (Hendersonville, Tennessee) and four-star wide receiver Zion Fowler (Jersey City, New Jersey).
Along with fellow recruits in three-star wide receiver Kenny Johnson (Dallastown, Pennsylvania), three-star defensive lineman Isaiah Neal (Baltimore, Maryland), three-star defensive end Antonio Camon (Tampa, Florida), three-star defensive end Calvin Smith (Ocoee, Florida), three-star defensive end DeeJay Holmes (Pahokee, Florida), three-star defensive back Brice Pollock (Snellville, Georgia), four-star defensive end Jalen Thompson (Detroit, Michigan), athlete Javious Bond (Gray, Georgia) and cornerback Shadarion Harrison (Lakeland, Florida).