New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, left, makes a...

New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, left, makes a catch while being guarded by Derrick Mason. (Aug. 8, 2011) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Santonio Holmes stayed behind, playing the role of glorified ball boy while the majority of his teammates were schmoozing with VIPs or signing autographs or already had trudged off the practice field.

Holmes stood next to one of the JUGS machines, serving as a middle man. Derrick Mason was catching passes and tossing them to Holmes, who quickly lobbed them to the person reloading the machine.

It's not something you'd expect from a guy who's one of the team's stars, weeks removed from signing a five-year, megamillion-dollar deal. But Holmes now is considered one of the Jets' main leaders, and Rex Ryan made it official Saturday, naming the sixth-year wide receiver one of the team's five captains.

"That's just being a great teammate and showing these guys that I'm not just here for the $50 million that everybody thinks that I signed for," Holmes said. "If we can win the Super Bowl here, everybody would say Santonio Holmes is a great teammate, he's a leader, he can be a Super Bowl MVP again. And with those qualifications, you have to own up to them, and it starts by being a great teammate."

Holmes, who admitted he was stunned when Ryan told him he was making him a captain, appeared to take more of a hands-on approach even before Ryan made his decision. He's been working with some of the younger receivers and also has taken on the responsibility of helping out Mason and Plaxico Burress, the two new veteran wide receivers.

He chats it up with quarterback Mark Sanchez as well, going over things during downtime between first-team reps.

"I think it's more of the ownership," Ryan said Saturday. "This is his football team. He chose to be here. The rest of his career, he's a New York Jet, and I think that means something to him. He's a great teammate, he really is."

Mason pointed out that some veterans don't help others, figuring that because a player has been in the league for such a long time -- 15 years, in Mason's case -- he doesn't need the advice.

But Holmes constantly has been there for Mason since his arrival during the first week of training camp, trying his best to explain some of the terminology and the inner workings of the Jets' offense.

"Tone, he's willing to help me out because he understands in order for us to be successful, we all have to be on the same page," Mason said. "He's showing the leadership qualities that you need as a veteran player. He's an MVP of the Super Bowl, so he knows what it takes to win. You have to have people on your team like that and he's willing to take on that role. Even with me in the room, he's willing to take on that role and I'm just here to listen."

Holmes is essentially an extra coach on the field for people such as rookie wideout Jeremy Kerley, a walking beacon of knowledge whom Kerley taps into seemingly nonstop. "Any questions, anything that you are unsure, unclear about," Kerley said, "it's hard not to go to him and be like, 'Man, what do I need to do here? Or what do I need to do there?' Because he's been there. He's done that."

That's part of the reason Ryan had Holmes serve as the Jets' spokesman during their pursuit of Burress, believing he was the perfect man for the job. Now Ryan has another gig in mind for him. "My challenge is, you lead from the front," Ryan said. "He's taken ownership of this. Everybody is proud to be a Jet. He's really proud to be a Jet."

Said Holmes: "Helping out the young guys as much as I could, I know Coach saw that as a leadership role, and I was willing to take that upon myself without having to wear a 'C' on my chest because I love the game that much. Just getting this opportunity right now, I'm definitely thankful that the organization decided to choose me as one of the captains."

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