During his time at South Aiken High School, Will Holbrook has emerged as one of the top linebackers in the area.
Several colleges took notice, but during Wednesday's National Signing Day festivities, Holbrook put ink to paper and confirmed a commitment to Newberry College.
“Newberry, it was kind of a recent development, but I went up there, and the coaching staff was great,” he said, noting other choices included North Greenville and Wingate for football scholarships and Furman, Gardner-Webb and Harvard as a preferred walk-on.
The staff, led by head coach Todd Knight, was also a reason Holbrook's father, Wes, liked Newberry, along with proximity and the campus. As the recruiting process came to an end, Wes said the “picture cleared” with Newberry as his son's focus.
“There were a lot of things about Newberry that made it a good fit,” he said. “No. 1, the coaches are phenomenal people.”
During his senior season, Holbrook came into his own while playing primarily at middle linebacker. He was among area leaders with 115 tackles and added 11 for loss to go with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. That was enough to earn him North-South All-Star, Border Bowl and All-Aiken Standard first-team honors, and he also had eight receptions for 63 yards as a tight end.
“You know, they mentioned that they liked my versatility, that I played different positions, but they recruited me to play inside linebacker,” said Holbrook, who also played quarterback for a few games as a junior.
South Aiken head coach Jeremy West highlighted that willingness to do what needed to be done for his team as an asset for Holbrook going forward.
“He's a team player,” West said. “Wherever they ask him to play, he'll do it 100 percent, and he won't ask why.”
West also pointed out another reason Holbrook could be an inspiration to other students. The multi-sport athlete, who also plays baseball, was not the “flashiest player” during his time with the T-Breds, but his hard work and dedication to improving his game allowed him the chance to play football at the college level.
“We're going to miss him a lot here, but Newberry's getting a fine young man and a fine football player,” West said.
Plenty of students, faculty and family members were present to witness the culmination of that hard work at South Aiken, and among them was former T-Bred Dekoda Watson, who played for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
“Oh, it means a lot,” Holbrook said of the crowd. “I was surprised at how many people showed out. Surprised that Dekoda Watson showed up; that was awesome.”
For his parents, the opportunity to see him play collegiately so close to home will be nice. But his father said that the best part of the day was seeing his son achieve such a big goal.
“It's exciting. We're just really excited for him and happy for him,” he said. “It's been a dream of his since he was little.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aikenís Will Holbrook signed to play football at Newberry College on Wednesday. Seated, from left, are sister Hannah Holbrook, mother Keli Holbrook, Will and father Wes Holbrook. Standing are athletic director Bob Polewski, left, and principal Bryan Skipper.×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aikenís Will Holbrook talks with former T-Bred and current NFL linebacker Dekoda Watson during Holbrookís signing day on Wednesday.×