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SI College Athlete of the Year nominee: USC's Khaled Holmes

For three seasons, Khaled Holmes was a rock on USC's offensive line, earning All-Pac-12 recognition three times while protecting his star quarterback Matt Barkley, but that's not to say his play was always perfect. Take the opening minutes of the Trojans' game at Utah last Oct. 4. Uncharacteristic botched snaps on consecutive series led to turnovers and a pair of Utes touchdowns that put the Trojans in a 14-0 hole. Holmes recovered and spent the rest of the game neutralizing future first-round pick Star Lotulelei, and USC rallied to win 38-28. As his jubilant teammates stormed the locker room, though, Holmes stood up in front of the team and said: "I want to apologize, personally, individually, for putting us in a hole like that in a hostile environment. I want to thank you guys for having my back and never faltering in your confidence in me." Coach Lane Kiffin followed by telling the players, "That's a great example right there of a real man."

Holmes grew up in a family that loved football but also cultivated other interests. Khaled's father, Michael, played defensive end for Michigan and worked for several decades as a financial advisor to the Saudi Arabian royal family. His mother, Katina, read classic literature to Khaled and his siblings as their bedtime stories. (Holmes' brother, Alex, was a tight end on USC's 2004 national title team; his sister, Theodora, married Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu.) Holmes also played the cello. He completed a bachelor's degree with a double major in classics and communication before also earning a masters in communication management. As part of his post-graduate work, which focused on social media and marketing, he helped develop a mobile app to make it easier for relocated or out-of-town fans of a certain team to connect with others in the same area. Meanwhile, he and Barkley -- close friends who've been attending bible study together since their days at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. -- were among 16 USC players that traveled to Haiti in May 2012 to build homes and visit with children in the earthquake-ravaged country.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Holmes, who had a 3.31 GPA in college, earned first team Pac-12 All-Academic honors in 2012, his third straight season receiving academic recognition, becoming one of just two players in the conference to earn All-Pac-12 honors both for football and academics. "People who don't know him, they see this Goliath of a guy and think he's maybe a dumb jock," Alex Holmes told the Los Angeles Times last year. "Then they hear him talk and he sounds like a poet."

Holmes, one of six finalists for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's best center, in 2012, struggled with an ankle injury early in the season. His importance to the Trojans was perhaps most evident in a game he missed at Stanford on Sept. 15. USC's star-studded offense was not the same in a 21-14 loss, giving up sacks, interceptions and earning costly penalties, causing coach Lane Kiffin to concede his center's absence was a "huge deal." Upon Holmes' return the next week, USC dominated on the ground against Cal. "Khaled makes a big difference for us," Kiffin said at the time. "He really makes everything go." Holmes was selected in the fourth round of last month's NFL draft by Indianapolis, where he'll block for former Stanford adversary Andrew Luck and perhaps find a new locker room to inspire.

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