As a sophomore at Bishop Alemany (Calif.), Holmes received a scholarship offer from Kiffin, then the coach of USC.
By the time Holmes graduated Kiffin was gone and Holmes was about to spend a three nomadic seasons in and out of college football,
That changed on Wednesday, however, when Holmes signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Kiffin at FAU.
“If things happen twice, it was meant to be,” Holmes said. “It’s kind of crazy how that worked out.”
One of the highest-rated wide receivers of the 2015 signing class, Holmes didn’t qualify academically until late in the signing process. By then USC and other Power 5 schools had moved on, so he accepted a scholarship at San Diego St.
But Holmes left the Aztecs after less than one week, citing family issues. He sat out that season before enrolling at Southern Utah, where he only caught nine passes for 90 yards at the FCS level. Deciding he wanted to play on a bigger stage, Holmes transferred to College of the Canyons, where his former high school coach Ted Iacenda now coached. He wanted to play one year of junior college football before transferring to a Division I program.
“He’s really kind of figured out what’s going on with his life and what he wants, and what he loves,” Iacenda said.
Holmes led College of the Canyons with 52 catches and seven touchdowns, averaging 17.5 yards per catch – a season-long highlight reel that ended with Holmes being a unanimous selection to the Southern California Football Association National Division’s All-Conference team.
Working to get Holmes to the next level, Iacenda sent Holmes’ highlight video to coaches across the country, including FAU offensive line coach Garin Justice, who gave Iacenda his contact information while recruiting a College of the Canyons player the year prior.
“I’m sure it didn’t take long once it hit Lane’s desk for him to say, Oh yeah, I remember him,” Iacenda said.
In Holmes (5-foot-10, 180) FAU is getting an explosive player who can line up in the slot, wide, and return punts and kicks.
“This is a kid who is extremely polished,” Iacenda said. “This kid is a ballplayer from top to bottom.”
Iacenda raves about Holmes’ hands, but what really stands out about the receiver is his speed.
“Desean is so smooth that you don’t think he’s running fast,” Iacenda said. “It is almost like a glide when you watch him run. And is he fast? Absolutely.”
A couple of uncertainties still surround Holmes. He’s completing a final class in College of the Canyons’ winter session, which doesn’t end until Feb 5. Holmes hopes to be in Boca Raton three days later and wants to take online courses at FAU beginning January in hopes of participating in spring football. It’s unclear whether that can happen.
There’s also some mystery about how much eligibility remains for Holmes. He’ll have at least two seasons, but the NCAA will have to decide whether Holmes burned his redshirt season by enrolling at San Diego St. even though he never attended a class.
Even if both of those situations don’t work out in Holmes’ favor, he’ll still enroll in the summer with two years of FAU football ahead him.
“He’s a special kid and he’s becoming a special young man,” Iacenda said.
A prior commitment kept Holmes’ from watching the beginning of Tuesday’s 50-3 FAU victory over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl.
By the time Holmes made it to a TV, he’d already missed the first quarter.
Later in the night, however, he came across a re-broadcast of the game.
“I re-watched the whole game all over again,” Holmes said.