By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
Khaled Holmes will have to work hard just to become the most notable football player at his extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner table.
Brother-in-law Troy Polamalu has won two Super Bowls and made seven Pro Bowl appearances as a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Holmes’ brother, Alex, won two national championships at Southern California before spending time with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and St. Louis Rams in 2006.
Holmes’ father, Michael, was a star defensive end under head coach Bo Schembechler at Michigan in the mid-1970s before turning down NFL overtures to become a financial advisor to the royal family of Saudi Arabia.
But football is just a piece of Holmes’ life.
His mother, Katrina, taught her children Latin and an appreciation for classical literature. Holmes played the cello growing up, and he already has earned a master’s degree in communication management from Southern Cal.
Selected in the fourth round of last month’s draft by the Indianapolis Colts, mediocrity is a word Holmes isn’t very familiar with.
“I was fortunate to be raised the way I was,” Holmes said following Sunday’s final Indianapolis Colts rookie mini-camp practice. “My mother and my dad instilled a lot of great values in me, and this has made me the man I am today.”
That man is a 6-foot-3, 302-pound center who doesn’t easily fit into any of the common stereotypes used to box in professional football players.
He certainly has the right look, complete with long and frizzy hair that must make Polamalu proud. And Holmes has proven he has the intestinal fortitude to thrive at the highest level.
Against Utah, in October, Holmes was inverted on one play by future first-round pick Star Lotuleilei and botched snaps on back-to-back series that helped the Utes roll out to a 14-0 lead.
Holmes later stood up in the postgame locker room and apologized to his teammates for his play. But not before neutralizing Lotuleilei for the rest of the evening and aiding USC to a 38-28 victory.
He’s also versatile, playing his entire sophomore season at right guard before moving over to center for his final two years with the Trojans.
An ankle injury slowed him during his senior year and might have contributed to him still being on the board when the Colts went on the clock with the 121st overall pick in the fourth round. But it hasn’t taken long for Holmes to display some of the intangibles that helped make him one of six finalists for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top college center last year.
“He had that aura about him,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said after Friday’s afternoon practice, noting the speed with which Holmes’ picks up information. “He’s a very, very confident kid. I was very impressed with Khaled.”
Holmes likely will compete with incumbent center Samson Satele for the starting role. The path became a bit more clear late last week when last year’s backup, A.Q. Shipley, was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens for a conditional seventh-round pick.
But Holmes isn’t buying into any of the talk about his leadership qualities or his potential role as a rookie. Instead he talks about studying his playbook and working hard in the weight room to be the best player he can be.
“It’s a role that, when I was at USC, I was fortunate to embrace,” Holmes said of being a leader. “Obviously, I’m just a rookie, but I’m doing everything I can to keep that going.”
He’s doing everything he can to embrace his football heritage as well.
Rather than feeling lost in the shadow of his family’s accomplishments, Holmes is trying to use their experiences for the betterment of his own nascent career.
“I’ve tried to soak up as much information as possible from them, not just recently, but you know, throughout my college career and even coming out of high school,” he said of speaking with his brother and brother-in-law. “It’s been a great resource that I’ve been fortunate to have.”