Exit interview: Khaled Holmes

Few Trojans have combined on-field and off-the-field accomplishments better than center Khaled Holmes (left), who should be one of the top centers selected in this week's NFL draft. Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

Following in the footsteps of his brother, Alex, as well his brother-in-law, Troy Polamalu, Khaled Holmes came to USC in 2008 after a standout prep career at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Making his debut as a starter as a redshirt sophomore at right offensive guard, he would eventually slide over to center the following season, where he remained for the rest of his time as a Trojan -- firmly establishing himself as one of the nation’s top players at the position. A strong and sturdy performer who was selected as a team captain in 2012, he was a Rimington Award finalist this past season despite suffering a high ankle sprain that hampered him for much of the fall.

Outside of football, Holmes was just as impressive inside the classroom. A 2012 Pac-12 All-Academic first team selection, he earned his B.A. with a double major in communication and classics before capping his time off on campus this past fall with a master’s degree in communication management.

Having now fully recovered from his ankle injury, as well as a strained pectoral muscle suffered at the NFL combine, Holmes is currently gearing up for a professional career. With the NFL draft coming up on Thursday, he took time out of his busy schedule to reflect back on his time at USC, as well as what life has been like since his Trojans’ career came to an end.

WeAreSC: What have you been up to since the end of the season in terms of preparing for the NFL draft?

Holmes: It’s been just a lot of training, first for the Combine in February, and then Pro Day in March. Just getting in the best shape possible for those events that you do, which is not necessarily the traditional football training that you might think of. But it was exciting, and it was fun to work out with guys from across the country who all had the same goals and the same dreams.

WeAreSC: Where have you been training primarily?

Holmes: Prior to Pro Day I was at Velocity in Irvine, and then Redondo Beach. And then since Pro Day I’ve been working out at USC.

WeAreSC: With the draft less than a week away, what’s going through your mind right about now?

Holmes: It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and with draft day less than a week away now, it’s just unbelievably exciting and I just can’t wait to hear my name called.

WeAreSC: Talk about playing your home games in the Coliseum and what that experience meant to you?

Holmes: The Coliseum, I think it’s one of the best stadiums in the country. I’ve had a couple of chances to go back since the last game, and you really just appreciate how beautiful it is, and how great the atmosphere is, and how many great athletes have competed there -- whether it’s USC football, the Super Bowls or the Olympics. It’s an incredible place to play, and I appreciate every opportunity that I had to play there.

WeAreSC: Are there any particular coaches at USC who had an especially profound impact on you?

Holmes: You know, Coach [Kennedy] Polamalu and I have a really good relationship -- him being my brother-in-law’s uncle -- and we’re really close. And also, obviously, Coach [James] Cregg. We spent a lot of time together. We really bounced ideas back and forth, and I had really cool conversations with him about football, game plans and technique. I got a lot better thanks to him.

WeAreSC: What will you miss most about being a student at USC?

Holmes: USC is a special place, and I’d like to think that I took advantage of every opportunity possible in getting to know people, friends and developing relationships with teachers and students. It’s been a great experience. What am I going to miss most? Probably just interacting with people on campus -- being on campus every day … just the college lifestyle in general, really.

WeAreSC: You received your master’s degree in communication management this past fall, and I understand that you were part of a pretty unique project. Talk about that experience and what you took away from it.

Holmes: My program was called the APOC program. It was an Annenberg program for online communities, and it’s a master’s in social media, marketing and digital technology. We were fortunate to actually receive $10,000 for the group to develop an iPhone application, or website or whatever you chose to do, to create an online community. I had a blast with that. We had a really fun app called UbiFan. It’s a sports app for fans who have just moved, or maybe they’re travelling a lot, and they want to find out where in their city fans of the same team go to watch the game. So if they’re an SC fan and they’re in Columbus, Ohio, they can find out where all the SC fans go. That was something that I really enjoyed -- going through the process of working within a team, as well as a year-and-a-half learning about online media.

WeAreSC: You were recently presented with the Jess Hill Memorial Award by the Trojan Club of San Gabriel Valley – an honor given to a student athlete each year who represents the USC motto of “Faithful, Scholarly, Skillful, Courageous, Ambitious.” Your brother, Alex, also received that award when he was at USC. What does it mean to you for yourself and Alex to be the first pair of brothers to receive that honor?

Holmes: It’s really unique and to receive that award was an honor, and there wouldn’t be anyone more deserving of receiving that award than my brother. He’s my hero and my role model, and it was awesome to be able to win the same thing that he did.

WeAreSC: Academics are obviously a strong focus for the Holmes family. Who drove that home for you and Alex?

Holmes: It was definitely my mom. She was a classicist as well -- she took classics in college. She always stressed the importance of academics when we were growing up. It was always much more important to her than any sport that we played.

WeAreSC: Favorite on- or off-campus eating spot?

Holmes: Jacks N Joe. It’s a breakfast joint on Figueroa.

WeAreSC: Looking back now, what did it mean to you to play football at USC?

Holmes: It was an unbelievably unique experience. USC has one of the most storied traditions in all of college football in one of the best cities in the country. And so many opportunities are presented to you on and off the field when you’re a Trojan. It’s an honor to have played there and I’m just happy that I was able to be a part of it.

WeAreSC: If you had one message to send to USC fans, what would it be?

Holmes: Thank You. Thank you for all the support through the ups and downs. Thank you for everything.