They say you can never go home, but Keith Holcombe can. Maybe it’s because he never left.
The University of Alabama linebacker is a hometown boy from Hillcrest High School. The 6-foot-4, 236-pound redshirt junior has contributed to both the Crimson Tide football and baseball teams.
His parents still live in the Hillcrest area, so he visits them frequently and drops by the school when he can.
“It’s always fun going back to see where you’re from,” he said. “I couldn’t go (to a Patriots football game) last year, just the schedule didn’t work out. I know where I’m from and I’m very proud of it.”
The feeling is mutual.
“It makes us very proud, and I think it does a lot to show the commitment that our coaches have and the work that they put in,” said Brad Armstrong, Hillcrest’s athletics director. “It also shows what kind of kids we have.
“Keith is not only just a great athlete, but a great student and a good kid, too. Everything that we talk about trying to develop here at Hillcrest as far as students and good athletes, Keith kind of exemplifies all of that.
“He comes and sees us still. He and I communicate still. His whole family, really — his brother (Max) played at Jacksonville State and had a great career — are very involved in the community, and that’s what you want.”
Holcombe made two dozen tackles last season, half of them on special teams. He’s working for more playing time on defense.
“I’m still working the two middle (positions),” he said early in fall camp. “Pretty much all the linebackers know both positions. It’s pretty much the same, the concept of our defense, we just kind of rotate and get the feel for everything.”
Holcombe played in 13 baseball games last season, starting 10, and batted .250. His season was cut short by his spring football obligation and shoulder surgery that followed spring practice.
For now, baseball is on hold.
“It’s football season now,” he said. “If I’m playing football right now thinking about baseball, that takes away from me being the best football player I can be, and vice-versa.
“I’m excited to have another opportunity there, but right now it’s fall camp and I’m excited to go through this camp and get ready for the season, see if we can get another national championship.”
Recovery from the shoulder injury went well, the player said.
“Rehab was great this summer,” he said. “I’m back full speed, getting everything limbered up, I’m ready for the season to start going.”
Being part of Alabama football is a big deal for the Hillcrest product.
“You can say the dream come true,” he said. “Being a legacy, because my dad played here as well, I’ve always dreamed about coming here and playing for the University of Alabama. I went to countless games in Bryant-Denny, and now being out here is one of the coolest moments that I have.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.