Auburn Family

"From Sidelines to Sidebars": The Story of C.j. Holmes

Being an NCAA Division I athlete is already a huge commitment as is, but for junior walk-on guard C.j. Holmes, his days go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as he juggles the responsibilities of a full-time student, being on the basketball team and working as a sports writer for The Auburn Plainsman. Oh, and taking care of his puppy.

“I’ve been really impressed by C.j.’s work ethic considering the workload he already has with classes and basketball,” said The Plainsman sports editor Eric Wallace. “He’s very open to instruction from more experienced writers, which I’m sure is an attribute that helps him as a walk-on athlete.”

This busy schedule wasn’t always the case for Holmes. For his first couple of years at Auburn, he was stuck in the mindset of being “the athletic jock.” Everything changed for him last semester, though, when he got a concussion the first day of classes and was out for two weeks. This meant he couldn’t go to the gym to work out and shoot and also was not allowed to be around loud noises.

“I had a lot of time in my apartment to sit there, and I had to really realize, ‘Hey C.j., you’re a walk-on. You’re not going to go pro, basketball is going to end sooner rather than later for you,’” Holmes said. “When basketball is taken away, what am I going to do? So I decided I needed to be proactive and I walked into The Plainsman office and I applied for a position there. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was going into that office.”

According to Holmes, while growing up in Washington D.C., the only school subjects he really excelled in were English and writing. Since he has always been a sports fanatic and loves to write, journalism and a hopeful career as a sports writer were a natural choice.

At the end of his junior year at IMG Academy, Holmes committed to Virginia Tech to go play for Seth Greenberg. At the end of his senior season, Virginia Tech was coming off of a poor season, which was a game-changer. Holmes said after Coach Greenberg was fired, he had nowhere to go since all the other schools had already recruited over him. But two of his teammates at IMG were committed to play for Auburn, and Auburn then recruited Holmes in a package deal.

“All I knew was that (Auburn University) had a good football team and beat Oregon,” Holmes said. “I never came on campus for a visit. I committed and showed up to Camp War Eagle and the rest is history.”

The best piece of advice Holmes can give to high school athletes hoping to become walk-ons is to have fun. But more importantly, Holmes said to make sure you’re well rounded and working on other areas to improve yourself for post-graduation.

Besides being a sports writer for The Plainsman, Holmes has also found time to begin writing his book titled, “From Sidelines to Sidebars,” which he hopes will be a memoir of sorts about his time as a walk-on athlete and writer at Auburn University. Holmes said that being on the sidelines really helps him when he's writing because it gives him a unique perspective.

He has also created a Twitter account (@WalkOnFrat) to unite Division I basketball walk-ons throughout the country, which has already gotten exposure via ESPN.

“Walk-ons too often are the people on the team who don’t really have a voice, so I wanted to give a voice to celebrate that we’re here, celebrate that we’re living our dreams,” Holmes said. “It gets stressful sometimes as a walk-on but to just be able to talk to a lot of common minded guys who are going through the same things, it’s one of the best things ever.” 

Holmes said his favorite memory from his three seasons on the basketball team came this season, when Auburn knocked off a nationally ranked Xavier team in front of a sold-out crowd.

“That and hitting a three ball in Rupp Arena is something that will always stick with me for the rest of my life,” Holmes said.

After Holmes interns at Sporting News in Charlotte, North Carolina this summer, he is not sure if he will continue playing basketball for Auburn. If not, he hopes to intern with the athletic department or become the sports editor of The Plainsman.

“My long-term goal is I want to be an ESPN guy; specifically, I want to be an SEC Network guy,” Holmes said. “Hopefully, I will be fortunate enough to get there.” 

(Photos: Used with permission. Contributed by C.j. Holmes)

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