He throws one leg over the side of his bicycle, the saddle so high most would have to hop onto it, and rocks this bag, these glasses and this head of hair as he peddles away down Trousdale Parkway. He looks like no ordinary student. He acts like no ordinary student-athlete.
"Khaled will not tolerate mediocrity or a lack of dedication and commitment because he doesn't understand that," said Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson, Holmes' high school head coach. "You're going to have to come up to his standards, but he will be patient and he will help. Then he'll say 'alright, it's time. Let's go.'"
Holmes will need to bring that kind of discipline to a youthful line that returns only one other veteran in tackle Matt Kalil, a projected early first-round pick. The experience Holmes gained as a sophomore in 2010, a season that culminated in All-Pac-10 honorable-mention honors, must pay dividends for the Trojans in 2011.
Holmes slides from right guard to center and will not only be counted on to pave holes for Marc Tyler and Co., he'll not only have to pass block for Matt Barkley, a high school teammate with the Monarchs – he'll have to anchor a line that is projected to include 2 sophomores and 7 freshmen.
Despite barely taking any snaps during the Trojans' spring football session because of neck stingers that have plagued him the past two seasons, Holmes has no hesitation jumping into an increased leadership role.
"He has the ultimate amount of self-confidence in his abilities, and I really believe it's because of his intelligence," Rollinson said.
Holmes' quick feet on the field match his quick wit in his studies, so the transition from guard to center shouldn't be too difficult. A double-major in classics and communication, the redshirt junior is starting a progressive master's degree in communication management next semester.
"From an early age academics always came first, as opposed to anything else, and that is just something my mom instilled in him from a young age and something he always believed in," Alex Holmes said.
Fervor for academics only gives depth to his character, only adds seriousness to the 6-foot-4 teddy bear.
"In most situations it's all really about learning," Holmes said. "Whether it is in the classroom or watching film, you have to approach it with the same mindset that you've got to be fully dedicated and fully comprehend it."
Holmes is not all talk, though.
When's he's not in practice or in the weight room, he may be pontificating about Greek mythology or burgeoning technology.
But when he puts on that helmet, his interests are much simpler: burning defenses and winning ball games.
Biking along the USC campus Khaled Holmes will stand out. To bystanders, his constant smile, wrestler-sized body and Lenny Kravitz-esque hair may be the only things one sees. But look a little harder and you will find a big man with the spirit of a curious boy, always willing to learn, and when healthy, always ready to dominate.
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