Even though Khaled Holmes grew up in a football family, he didn’t play in Pop Warner or Junior All-American youth football leagues. He was always too heavy for the weight requirements.
So he waited, and watched, and waited, and watched some more.
By the time Holmes enrolled at Mater Dei High School, he was more than ready to make up for lost time.
“My dad (Mike) played at Michigan for (legendary former Wolverines coach) Bo Schembechler,” Holmes told the Indianapolis Star. “My brother (Alex) played at USC and played two years in the NFL, and my brother-in-law (Steelers All-Pro Troy Polamalu) played at USC and he’s still playing. The problem for me was that I couldn’t play football until I was in high school. I was too big (for the youth leagues). But I always did love it, back when I was kid watching it on Sundays with my dad. And my brother is nine years older, so I was able to watch him go through high school and college and excel and win all those national titles at USC and play in the NFL. It was just real inspiration. I saw all the best of it.”
While Alex Holmes was a standout tight end on two national championship teams at USC, Khaled (pronounced CALL-id) contributed as an important offensive lineman for the Trojans during a time when NCAA sanctions prohibited the Trojans from participating in any postseason bowl games.
Holmes, who will be a third-year center for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 NFL season, enjoyed a remarkable career at Mater Dei and USC, protecting quarterback Matt Barkley at both schools.
“We moved (when I was) in sixth grade, and we learned about the high schools in the area and (Mater Dei) was just a great opportunity,” Holmes said. “I loved every minute I was there. I had a great coach, who is still there, Bruce Rollinson. He’s been there since ’89 and he’s just been like a father to so many men. He’s a great man and he really helped me in my career. But the school itself is awesome, too.”
Born in San Diego, Holmes earned All-America and All-State honors at Mater Dei, a nationally renowned program that has produced two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks – John Huarte (Notre Dame in 1964) and Matt Leinart (USC in 2004) – and an array of college and NFL players. In addition to capturing two national championships, Mater Dei has won nine CIF Southern Section football titles.
But 6-foot-3, 302-pound Holmes was more than a football player at Mater Dei.
“What he had was an innate ability to lead, but what he probably had was one of the greatest senses of humor I’ve ever been around,” Rollinson said to MaxWire National Blog.
Holmes played most of his amateur career blocking for former Heisman candidate and multiple USC school record-holder Barkley, the Monarchs’ Gatorade National Football Player of the Year in 2008, when Barkley was the first non-senior to win the award.
“I’ve known Matt since I was in sixth grade,” Holmes said. “We’re probably best friends. He’s a great guy. I was his left tackle in high school and his center in college. That was awesome. We had some guys (at Mater Dei) who ended up at UCLA, Chris Ward, who was an offensive lineman, Andrew Abbott, who walked on and earned a scholarship at UCLA and became a good cornerback for them, and Cameron Meredith, who became a defensive end at Nebraska. I’ll probably forget some guys. We definitely had some great high school athletes. They didn’t all go on to have college careers, but they were great high school players.”
At USC, Holmes stepped into the starting spot at right guard in his sophomore season in 2010 and, despite missing spring practices in 2011 because of a shoulder injury, he switched to center that season and became a second-team All-Pac 12 selection.
Even though he sustained nagging ankle and leg injuries in 2012, Holmes, in his third year as a starter for the Trojans, earned Academic All-America consideration and was named one of six finalists for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s top center. Holmes was selected in the fourth round (121st overall) by the Colts in the 2013 NFL draft and has appeared in eight games in two seasons, starting twice.
Before the draft, NFL.com considered Holmes’ strengths as a “tenacious player who gets after any defensive lineman in his path – and teammates who aren’t getting the job done. (Holmes) sustains blocks through the whistle and takes his man backwards and drives them to the ground regularly. (He has) quick feet for his size, can reach second-level targets or get out in front of screens.”
Rollinson was hopeful that Holmes would be a first-round pick “because of the history of what he brings to the table and his intelligence … (but) he’ll go where he’s told to go and he’ll surprise everyone. Watch out for Khaled Holmes.”