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Holton among big Bryant-Jordan winners


Elmore County High School’s Hayden Holton was named one of three overall state winners at the 35th annual Bryant-Jordan Student Athlete Awards Program on Monday night. Ben Williams, of Phil Campbell and Kamryn Sparks of Pleasant Valley High School were the other recipients. A total of 104 high school regional senior honorees were recognized and awarded more than $380,000 in scholarships.

Williams was the recipient of the Larry D. Striplin, Jr., Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.  Sparks and Holton were named co-winners of the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Student Achievement Athlete of the Year Award.

The scholarship program, named in honor of the late coaches Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama and Ralph "Shug" Jordan of Auburn, recognized 52 regional scholar-athlete winners selected for their excellence in athletics and academics and 52 achievement winners chosen for their ability to overcome major obstacles during their high school careers.

Each of the 104 regional winners received a $3,000 scholarship; the 14 Class Winners received an additional $3,500; and for each overall state winner, the additional stipend received was $4,000. In total, the 104 Bryant-Jordan Regional Winners collectively received $325,000 overall from the Bryant-Jordan Foundation.

In addition, several other individuals and organizations have also joined the Bryant-Jordan Program and present additional scholarships as well. Since the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program’s inception, 3,220 senior student-athletes have received approximately $10.8 million in scholarships.   

Holton, an outstanding four-sport student-athlete who will graduate from Elmore County High School with a 3.06 grade-point average, played baseball through the 11th grade, soccer as a senior, and played basketball and football all through high school. He served as captain of  the basketball and football  teams as a senior – earning All-County and All-Region at tight end.

On Sept. 11, 2016, he saw his life turn upside down when both parents were killed, and a family member was arrested soon after the incident. The charges were dropped two years later.

In the meantime, the freshman went to live with relatives in another county before returning to Eclectic in mid-year. Although he was ineligible to participate, he came to every practice, attended every game and supported his teammates any way he could. His coaches, teammates and their parents immediately became his extended family – helping him complete his high school years as normally as possible by showing him an abundance of love. He emerged as a leader on and off the field – displaying an amazing perseverance that inspired all who know him.

“I loved the family part of sports, most definitely,” Holton said. “That seriously helped the most. It’s always something to fall back on. If you break down, there’s always somebody there for you no matter what, and you’re there for them the same way. It’s one big family, a huge family.”

Elmore County principal Wes Rogers watched the transition first hand.

“They wrapped their arms around him and embraced him and helped him through this situation as much as you could,” Rogers said. “There’s no playbook or manual for something like this.”