STANFORD, Calif. - Alijah Holder is still catching his breath from the final play of last season for Oceanside High School in Southern California.
With Cathedral High threatening on the two-yard line, the 6-foot-2, 174-pound defensive back sniffed out a short pass in the flat and that’s exactly what developed.
“When I saw the running back release, I broke up and caught the ball in mid-end zone,” said Holder. “I just thought, last play of the game, let’s just finish. I was sprinting the whole time. Longest run I’ve ever had on a football field.”
Holder’s 105-yard touchdown return sealed the victory. However, his teammates didn’t dogpile him in the end zone.
“They were too tired to run,” he said.
Holder is getting plenty of exercise with the Stanford football team, which started fall training camp earlier this week. He’s also attending summer school.
“Trying to get my body used to things has been the most challenging part,” Holder said.
Holder was a three-year starter in high school and named a four-star recruit by 247Sports. Last season, he collected 21 tackles for loss, defended 20 passes and intercepted two while leading his team to the league title. He also lettered in basketball and track and field, earning second-team all-league honors in the long jump.
Holder is 13 minutes older than his twin brother Mikah, a wide receiver at San Diego State. They played together in high school and once thought that would continue in college.
“My first choice was Stanford ... He was the first person I told when I got my offer and was real happy for me. There was no sad moment. It was just all love.”
Holder feels a special bond with his freshman class, but credits the returning players for making them feel comfortable, keeping them focused, and explaining what it takes to play in four consecutive BCS games.
“I like hanging out with the other freshmen,” he said. “We’re getting to know the older guys and they treat us like brothers. They’re just good, humble guys ... These guys really care how we learn and develop.”
Holder is interested in civil engineering and architectural design, and already has a favorite place on campus: the Stanford Memorial Church, which opened in 1903.