The two senior linebackers at the middle of Alabama’s defense have some history together. Saturday’s season opener against Florida State won’t be the first time they teamed up.

They were both part of the Montgomery Tar Heels, a youth basketball team, years and years before they were teammates at Alabama.

“We played travel ball,” Evans said. “We went some tournament in Kentucky and we ended up winning it, so that was probably one of the things I remember the most.”

But those days are long gone. Evans said he and Hamilton barely play basketball anymore.

They’ve been climbing the ladder of the Alabama football program together since 2014. Hamilton was in the inside linebacker rotation in 2015. Evans broke in last year. Hamilton tore his ACL in the SEC championship last December. Evans moved from outside linebacker to inside and learned a new position.

When Hamilton’s injury knocked him out of Alabama’s playoff run, Evans was ready to go in his place.

“He grew a lot from a friend point of view and a team point of view,” Hamilton said. “He was kind of young at that position last year.”

Evans thinks Hamilton is ready to go, too. Saturday will be his first game back since that ACL injury.

“He’s been looking pretty fast lately, and I feel like now he’s starting to get a lot more comfortable running on that knee that he had the injury on,” Evans said. “I think he’ll probably do good, man.”

Hamilton said he’s felt fine all through fall camp. The Catapult GPS system Alabama uses to track players in practice shows he’s actually more explosive than he was before the injury. Hamilton can feel it. Evans has always been one of Alabama’s quickest linebackers.

They’re among the most experienced players returning to Alabama’s defense this year. They’re responsible for making most of the calls and signals to their teammates.

Having a history together helps them manage those responsibilities. Evans and Hamilton know they can trust one another.

“Whenever we’re on the field, man, we both kind of complement each other, whether it’s one of us making one call and another guy making another call the next play,” Evans said. “So, I think just having that guy with me, beside me, it makes my job a lot easier.”

That guy has been with Evans for a long time. They weren’t teammates in high school and it took time for them both to find their spot at Alabama, but both players appreciate one another.

“I enjoy playing with him,” Hamilton said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s one of those guys who comes to practice every day with his hard hat on. Whenever everybody’s down or tired, you can always look forward to Rashaan with his crazy personality getting the guys going. He’s a great leader for our team.”

Reach Ben Jones at or 205-722-0196.