Ronald Holland says he did not set out to produce four professional athletes when he started his family in the early 1980s.
“It just kind of worked out that way,” Holland says.
“I think all the women he talked to were six feet (tall) or close to it,” Ramon Foster says with a laugh when asked if he thinks his father purposely sought out tall and athletic women.
Brothers Caldwell, Charles, Major and Wil Jones played in the NBA in the 1970s and 1980s. Kendall, Vincent, Corey and Kyle Fuller each made it to the NFL in the 2000s and 2010s. They are the only sets of four brothers to do that.
Four of Holland’s six sons represent a unique hybrid of the accomplishments of the Jones and Fuller families.
Ramon Foster, 34, was an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 11 years before retiring earlier this year. He starred at the University of Tennessee before that.
Renardo Foster, who is 18 months older than Ramon and grew up with him in Ripley, was an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints after playing at the University of Louisville.
Rodney Carney, 36, who has a different mother than Renardo and Ramon and grew up in Indianapolis, was a star forward at the University of Memphis and was named Conference USA player of the year in 2008. He was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls and played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies and several overseas teams.
Ron Slay, 38, grew up under another roof in Nashville. He was the Southeastern Conference player of the year at Tennessee in basketball and played for the Miami Heat summer team before playing overseas for 13 years.
All told, the four brothers played more than 30 combined professional seasons.
Did Ronald Holland see this coming?
“I was very surprised,” says Holland, who lives in Covington. “I knew they were going to have the height and the size, but they went way further than I expected.”
Ramon, Renardo, Rodney and Ron come from a very athletic family.
Weary Dyson, who is Ronald Holland’s father, played basketball and baseball at Frazier High School in Covington.
DeAndra Ware, Rodney’s mother, was a world-class sprinter who qualified for the 1980 Olympics but did not compete because of the United States boycott.
And then there’s Ronald, who was recently ranked as the fourth-best football player in Tipton County history and is a member of the Tipton County Sports Hall of Fame.
At 6-4, 240, Holland was huge for a running back at Covington and combined that with excellent speed. He was named all-state in 1976.
“He was the best running back I’ve ever seen, hands down,” says Harvey Witherington, who has the public address announcer for many years at Covington.
Holland was recruited by multiple colleges before playing for Tennessee State. After that he took part in the Los Angles’ Rams preseason camp.
Other than Ramon and Renardo, the brothers did not see a lot of each other growing up, but when they became adults that changed.
The four brothers have been on multiple trips together over the last decade or so and stay in contact though social media, texting and phone calls on a regular basis.
“You’d think we were all raised in the same household considering the relationship we have,” Ramon says. “When we meet up it’s like we were all raised in the same house together. The love we have for one another is out of this world. There was nothing forced when we got old enough to hang around together. It was nothing but love … It’s about the moms, too. The mothers of us says a lot about us and them.”
The four brothers are all 6-6 and obviously athletic, but their personalities vary.
Ron Slay calls himself the lively one.
“Ramon is the pettiest one,” he says with a laugh. “Renardo is the thoughtful one, very analytical, and Rodney is the quiet one.”
Ramon laughs when he hears this.
“Renardo is a perfectionist, but not in an OCD way,” Ramon says. “He’s just very calculated, super smart. Ron, when he walks into a room, you’re going to know who he is. His walk says who he is, his talk says who he is. Rodney’s quiet, but he sees everything. I guess I’m a mixture of all of them in a sense. I like to have fun with all of them.”
Ronald Holland, all four brothers and Steven Carney, Ronald’s brother, attended Renardo’s wedding in 2010. So did Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, who is a cousin of the four brothers. He is a Covington graduate who played college basketball at Massachusetts and Samford and, at 25, is currently pursuing a professional career.
Holland has a sixth son, Justin Holland, who lives in California.
Florence Dyson, who has been married to Weary for 39 years, has worked to get everybody together over the years.
“We would always try to work it out when one season was ending and before another was beginning,” she says. “I keep up with all of them.”
When Slay was playing at Tennessee, Renardo and Ramon, who were in high school, came to see him play.
“I hadn’t seen them in a while and they were big,” Slay says. “I knew they were going to do something good.”
Ramon says it was special when he and Renardo were playing in the NFL at the same time.
“We never played each other, but we would watch film together and give advice about other guys,” Ramon says. “It was really, really cool to have somebody you shared a house with as a kid who was also in the NFL.”
Ramon calls Weary his idol and respects what his father accomplished.
“The stuff he did athletically is legendary and to have four sons who played professionally, that says a lot about him.”
With everybody but Rodney retired, the four brothers have more time to stay in touch.
“They’re my support group, for sure, and I’d like to think I theirs,” Ramon says. “We’ve cultivated a really good relationship to have not been raised together.”
Ronald has a birthday coming up in July and is going to try to get all of his sons, and 13 grandchildren, together to celebrate.
“They had different mothers, but through the years they’ve been very close,” Ronald says. “My sons are fortunate. They’re all living great lives … I could see having one or two sons who played professionally, but four? I’m blessed.”