INDIANAPOLIS - A total of 337 prospects were invited to this year's NFL Combine; two of those prospects grew up with family ties to the Buffalo Bills. UCLA defensive back Darnay Holmes and Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. are the sons of former Bills players. Growing up with fathers in the NFL, falling into football was never a doubt.
"I have been playing football my entire life, probably since I was two years old," Winfield Jr. said. "There was never a moment where I didn't think I was going to play football."
Winfield Jr.'s father was drafted by Buffalo in 1999 with the 23rd overall pick. Antoine Winfield was a corner for the Bills from 1999 to 2003. Holmes' dad, Darick Holmes, was also drafted by Buffalo in 1995. Holmes was a running back for the Bills from 1995 to 1998.
Antoine and Darick were very young when they lived in Buffalo, so the two don't have many memories of living there. But, one thing that stuck was the passionate fan base.
"The culture there, the fan base, Bills Mafia," Holmes said. "They are going to live and die by that Bills slogan. That support system is big, to this day there's people who want to see greatness from him [Darick Holmes]. In this world there's not a lot of people that want you to be great, so just having that people in Buffalo still want his best interest is just a blessing for our family for sure."
Life as a kid was a little different for the two. Growing up with dads in the NFL meant the sport was in their blood.
"He [Darick Holmes] had a VCR tape, he made sure we sat down and watched that tape," Holmes explained. "He had some juice to it, for sure. I always knocked down his game but once I saw that tape I was like okay, I got some of that from you."
"When I was younger my dad would lay in his bed with his laptop and I would be sitting right next to him watching film," Winfield Jr. said. "In particular it was Calvin Johnson, he had to play Detroit one week and I remember just sitting next to him just breaking the film down and everything. That was a cool experience that most people don't get to do."
Another unique experience as Antoine and Darnay got involved with organized football was having their father as their role model. It was someone who accomplished the dreams they currently have that was able to give first-hand advice.
"My pops knew that no matter what was going on, you can never compromise your grind because of things that you did beforehand," Holmes said. "He always put in our ear that if you want to be the best, you have to outwork the best."
Meeting with several general managers and head coaches this week, Antoine explained anywhere he goes, people know his father. His dad, Antoine Winfield, was a three-time Pro Bowler for the Minnesota Vikings and had 27 total interceptions in his 14-year NFL career. Having a dad that is well-known in the NFL community, it may be easy to feel the burden of filling your father's shoes, but Antoine said he is confident in himself.
"No pressure at all, I am my own identity," Winfield Jr. explained. "I am Antoine Winfield Jr. A lot of people call me Antoine Winfield, I'm like no that's my dad's name. I'm just being my own identity."
Holmes understands just how special it was for his father to play in Buffalo, and if he got the chance, he would love to represent his family playing for the Bills.
"It would just be a tremendous honor, that culture that they have," Holmes said. "Just that resume that my pops had for them. I know that I'll be somebody that they welcome me with open arms. No matter what program or organization that I step foot into, they are going to get the best version of Darnay Holmes."