By John Goolsby
Caleel Holifield didn’t expect to be on the sideline for the last two games of the year, but an ankle injury against Pell City ended his season early. Even though Holifield won’t be contributing on the field, he’s helping his teammates by reading what the offensive line is doing and helping the defensive line make adjustments.
That’s typical of Holifield, who helps his teammates academically and at home with his two younger sisters. The “gentle giant,” as his mom, Rachel Holifield, calls him, always looks to help others. “We have always taught him to be a leader,” she said.
Holifield, who started playing football at Clay in the 3rd grade, spent his summer working on getting stronger and faster. That hard work paid off for him. “Caleel has grown to become the leader of our group this year. Even when he had to move from playing end to tackle, he didn’t gripe; he just did what the coaches asked to the best of his ability,” said defensive line coach Robert Nelson, Jr.
Academics are extremely important to Holifield, and he wants to set an example for younger players. “I really want to let people know that even doing the IB program; you can still be a good student-athlete and excel in both,” he said. “You don’t have to compromise either one.” Holifield is also part of the Engineering Academy.
Holifield won’t be finished competing when the football season ends. Last spring he took up golf. “Golf opened up a whole new perspective and thought process within him as well,” said his mom. “It requires focus, precision and commitment.”
“He shushed me numerous times at the first match I attended because I wanted to ask questions and cheer for him like I do in football,” his mom said. “He let me know quickly that golf doesn’t require that kind of support!”
Caleel would like to major in Agricultural Engineering because it combines the things he likes: engineering, problem-solving, math, science, food, and animals. He ultimately wants to have a “farm-to-table” business.
Whatever path the laid-back and thoughtful senior chooses, he knows that being versatile in life, like balancing sports and academics, will continue to open the doors for him in unexpected places and ways.