By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
PASADENA – Karl Holmes Jr. called an audible.
It wasn’t part of the plan, but the senior wide receiver from Muir High School listened to his coaches when they advised him to wait before signing a national letter of intent in early February to Sacramento State, which wanted him to grayshirt.
Holmes took their advice. He waited and grew nervous after a friend also waited, only to have his offer pulled off the table because he waited too long.
Not long after, Muir offensive coordinator Antyone Sims called Holmes with some news.
“Coach Sims called me and said get your transcripts and send them to ASU,” Holmes recalled. “I was shocked. That’s Pac-12. I knew I could compete, but at the Pac-12 level, that sounds crazy.”
Crazy indeed, but only for those who missed out on a 6-foot-3 speedy wideout whom Sims said Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson dubbed a “diamond in the rough.”
Sims also said Erickson and his coaching staff got wind of Holmes while watching his highlight film on YouTube. Communication began, and Holmes was invited on a recruiting trip, which he took last week with his mother, Wanda Martin.
He landed in Tempe on Thursday. By Friday, Holmes had an offer.
“I’m just thankful they saw it on YouTube,” Martin said. “This was just God opening another door for him.”
Holmes celebrated with an announcement Monday afternoon at the school’s library flanked by family, coaches, teammates and school administrators.
Holmes almost didn’t make it to Arizona State. He pondered hard about signing with Sacramento State, grayshirting and attending Pasadena City College.
“So I was maybe thinking I should grayshirt before I ended up without nothing,” said Holmes, who runs a 4.54 40-yard dash and had 628 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season.
Holmes, who was fielding interest from Sacramento State, Utah State and Colorado State, credited his coaching staff, particularly Sims, who spends countless hours putting together highlight films for his players.
“Coach Sims gave me rides, took me to passing leagues and camps,” Holmes said. “He’s a big reason why I’m going to ASU because he pushed me harder. Every time I dropped the ball he was on me.”
Said Sims: “When you see this, it’s all well worth it.”
Holmes said his plan was to redshirt wherever he landed next season. He expressed as much to Erickson, who in turn told him to forget about that because he was going to play as a true freshman.
“I was going to take a year off and get better,” said Holmes, who raised his GPA from 2.8 to 3.0 last semester. “Coach, and this is coach Erickson talking, said I was going to play as a true freshman.
“Coach said, `If you come up here, you do what you’re supposed to do, all those guys like (George Farmer) and Robert Woods at USC, I guarantee you’re going to be better than them.’ So I took that and ran with it.”
Holmes is one of 18 players in the Sun Devils’ recruiting class and one of three wide receivers. Erickson likes throwing the ball, evident by the eight different Sun Devils receivers who caught at least 20 passes in 2010.
Holmes has already circled Nov. 5 on his calendar. That’s when Arizona State plays UCLA at the Rose Bowl, a familiar place for Holmes, who has played there twice in the Turkey Tussle.
Erickson and his staff will visit Holmes at a track meet next month before he reports to camp in July.
He plans on majoring in history or social work. Either way, Holmes plans on getting his degree first before setting sights on the NFL.
His uncle, Darick, graduated from Muir in 1989 before being drafted in 1995. He went on to play with the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts.
Holmes credits his uncle for instilling a hard-work ethic, the reason he remained focused despite a tough upbringing that included his father, Karl Holmes Sr., landing on Death Row for his involvement in the killings of three Pasadena children on Halloween night in 1993.
Holmes said he spoke with his father Sunday to tell him the news.
“He said he was proud of me,” Holmes said. “He said he can’t wait to see me play on Saturdays, and to stay humble.”
“As far as I’m concerned,” Muir football coach Ken Howard said, “that’s the true definition of success.”