After moving to La Jolla in 1978, I met and married Katina Panos and Alex Holmes was born in La Jolla in 1981. He entered La Jolla High as a 14 year old freshman and went out for football for the first time. He had dominated in basketball and baseball up to start of high school. The CIF rule was you must be 15 to play varsity football. When Alex first started school we never considered CIF rules. They have since changed that rule. In hindsight, as a parent I would recommend keeping your children in their proper age group. Alex was good enough to play varsity but by rule he was not allowed.. He played La Jolla JV football. The La Jolla varsity was an OK football team but the JV was not very good. Alex would have learned much more playing varsity. The principal Mr. Tarvin who was in his last year of a 25 year career as La Jolla High principal asked my wife and I for a meeting along with vice principal Dana Shellburne. He told us that he had been watching Alex and thought he was a special student athlete. He suggested that we have Alex appeal to the CIF for a 5th year of high school eligibility so that he could get get in his right age group. We asked Alex and he agreed. Can you imagine convincing a teenager to repeat the 9th grade when he did not fail? Alex was a strait A student but he had a severe illness in the 8th grade and missed many weeks of school which caused him academic problems. He still placed in the top 1% in the world in Latin 3 years in a row. Now Alex was returning to La Jolla High as a 9th grader again but assuming the CIF was not going to rule in his favor, he took all new classes. He could graduate after his junior year should the CIF rule against him. Alex was now taking Greek instead of Latin and was on course to take his math class at UCSD his senior year. As his parents, we were thinking he could be a Rhodes Scholar. Alex dominated San Diego football as a freshman. He played tight end and nose tackle. In the first game of the season against Mission Bay High he caught a 5 yard pass and dragged the entire Mission Bay team for a 15 yard gain. The entire stadium let loose a sounding ohh!
We just knew that Alex was going to have a great season at tight end. He never was thrown the ball again the rest of the season. I did not understand. He dominated at nose tackle as he could not be blocked. He started on the basketball team and then set the freshman record in the discuss and shot put. He was rolling. Two weeks before the school year ended the new principal Shellburne contacted Alex and told him that he decided that Alex was no longer a freshman but was now a sophomore. We did not understand and we were furious. I went down to the school to find out what was going on. I first went to the head football coach Dick Huddleston and asked for his support. He told me that he agreed with the principal. I reminded him that Alex was not bused into La Jolla high and he was born in La Jolla and lived in the neighborhood. To my surprise I could not get his support. I right away thought about Alex never seeing another pass after thrilling the crowd with his first catch and run the first game of the season. Now, the school was pouring gasoline on my fire. I went to Shellburne and he told me his mind was made up with no explanation. I reminded him he was in the room when principal Tarvin proposed the idea of Alex repeating the 9th grade. He did not seem to care and I was furious.
I didn’t want to play the race card but that was the only thing that made sense. Either that or there was something between Tarvin and Shellburne. Why would La Jolla High not want to get credit for producing such an unusual student/athlete? He was Mr. Tarvin’s own personal project and the new principal was changing the game for no apparent reason. We were preparing for the CIF to deny Alex but not La Jolla High. Why not leave it to CIF so we could make our case? We now had no case.
I called my friend Brian Taylor who headed admissions at Harvard Westlake in Studio City, Ca. Brian was a friend from La Jolla who used to play basketball for the San Diego Clippers. Brian, Sidney Wicks, Randy Smith and Joe Bryant all played for the Clippers and lived in La Jolla. We used to hang out and our kids played together. Brian suggested I bring Alex to the Harvard Westlake to take the entrance exam and meet the football coach. Alex passed the exam and was admitted into Harvard Westlake.
Harvard Westlake was considered by some to be the best academic high school west of the Mississippi. Harvard Westlake was located in the valley and 2 hours drive from La Jolla. They sure were not known for their football team so there was no worry that the CIF could suspect us of sending Alex there for any reason other than academics. Two years prior to Alex arrival they had two seven foot twins Jason and Jarron Collins both of whom attended Stanford, were drafted into the NBA and still play. Of course, they won the CIF state championship in basketball. Now Alex Holmes was about to bring that same recognition to the football team.
My job took me to the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and I took my entire family with me. The 5 of us lived in a suite at the Beverly Hilton for 9 months. My wife and I looked for a house to buy everyday. We owned our home in La Jolla and rented it out so we could buy another home. We found a 7000 sq ft home in Sherman Oaks with a swimming pool and a tennis court. We did not have a problem renting our home but moving from La Jolla to Sherman Oaks was a huge transition. Alex, Theodora and Khaled all started school while we lived in the hotel. Alex started school at Harvard Westlake. Theodora started her freshman year at Beverly Hills High and Khaled started 4th grade at El Rodeo Elementary school. The kids really enjoyed living in the hotel. After we closed escrow in Sherman Oaks, Theodora and Khaled had to change schools for the 2nd semester.
Harvard Westlake agreed to petition the CIF on Alex’s behalf. As parents, we thought the CIF would consider the petition on academic grounds again, we were thinking possible Rhodes Scholar. Surely the CIF would want a great story about a California student athlete making his academics a priority in his life?
Alex went on to be the Los Angeles Times Offensive Player of the Year and the CIF ruled against him after his junior year. He decided to attend his senior year of high school and not play any sports. It was a confusing junior year for Alex because legally coaches could not recruit Alex him. He was in limbo along with the coaches. Every school in the country offered him a scholarship and I mean every school in the country. I personally told Bo Schembechler that Alex was going to Michigan.
I went back to Michigan for Bo’s Boys 30 year reunion. There were 500 ex Michigan football players gathered to honor Bo and I was the only one who had a son being recruited by Michigan. I was honored when Coach Jerry Hanlon took the microphone and told every football player in the building to come up to me and make sure my son Alex chooses Michigan. I was on the spot. I was in a room with a Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson and NFL Monday Night football host Dan Dierdorf , the future CEO of Dominos Dave Brandon and current AD at Michigan and many other noted Michigan alumni. By the way, Dave Brandon and I played DE at Michigan. Alex had made me the most proud Michigan man in the entire room. I was so honored. Everyone in that room was instructed to contact personally and ask me about Alex. Dan Dierdorf said to me “I don’t know who you son is but he must be really good.” I got phone calls from Les Miles my team mate who was coaching TE’s with the Dallas Cowboys now head coach at LSU and Dave Brown the original Seattle Seahawk. Dr. Kirk Lewis called me from Idaho. Everybody who knew me was calling me asking about Alex. Decision time came and Alex as a 18 year old told me “Dad, I was born and raised in Southern California, I want to go to school here and I want to start my business here, I need to go to USC.”
Here are the links to Alex Holmes while at USC:
Alex played his rookie year 2005 with the Miami Dolphins as a undrafted free agent. He made the team as a practice player and after the 7th game was put on the 53 man roster for the rest of the year. The Dolphins cut him the following year and Alex was picked up by the St. Louis Rams. Alex was injured in St Louis and cut on the day teams must choose their final 53 man roster. That is another story.
Alex came home after being cut by the Rams and it took him a couple years to get over the NFL. He fell back on his education and started his own company Wild Hair Media.