Lowe Praises Alabama All-Star Linebackers

     Alabama All-Star head coach Woodrow Lowe has a keen eye when it comes to recognizing outstanding linebacker play. He should. He earned All-America honors as a linebacker in college and spent 12 years in the NFL making his living at that position.
    Lowe praised his entire 40-man prep all-star team after Wednesday’s practices as the squad for the second straight day continued preparation for Saturday’s 27th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game at Cramton Bowl.
    The game, which kicks off at noon and will be televised live throughout the Southeast live over Raycom Network’s various affiliates in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, is a project of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association, the coaches’ organization of the AHSAA.
     “I was impressed especially with linebackers Keith Holcombe and Shaun Hamilton,” Lowe said. Holcombe, the son of former University of Alabama center Danny Holcombe, prepped at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and Hamilton played at Carver-Montgomery. “They both showed a lot of leadership out there.
    “Gunner Roach also was impressive,” said Lowe. Roach, UMS-Wright’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, and Clay-Chalkville’s Hayden Moore are Alabama’s signal callers.
    “Overall, I have to be very pleased with what I have seen from all our kids,” Lowe said. “They are all good athletes and good kids.”
     Alabama and Mississippi players were treated to a steak and chicken dinner at Wynlakes Country Club Wednesday night. The featured speaker was one of Lowe’s childhood friends, Jeremiah Castille. Ken Blankenship of the Montgomery Sports Commission assisted in hosting the all-stars. 
    Castille, who spent six years in the NFL, delivered a riveting speech that received a player-led standing ovation. He talked to the all-stars about the importance of developing the person off the field.
     Lowe introduced Castille, who grew up in Phenix City and was the college roommate at UA with Eddie Lowe, Woodrow’s younger brother.  Eddie Lowe is now the mayor of Phenix City.
    The two teams will practice Thursday morning with Mississippi at Huntingdon College and Alabama at Faulkner University.  The afternoon workouts will be held at Stanhope Elmore High School in nearby Millbrook with community leaders hosting a Low Boil at Millbrook Community Center Thursday night.
   The teams will practice Friday morning at Huntingdon and Faulkner and later Friday afternoon will participate in the Salvation Army Kettle Challenge community project.  A banquet honoring the teams will be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church Friday night and an FCA breakfast will be held at Trinity Saturday morning before the two teams head to Cramton Bowl.
       Alabama holds a 19-7 edge in the series that began in 1988 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. Alabama has won five in a row since Mississippi’s last win in 2007.
Honorary game captains this year are Wayne Dickens (Alabama) and Eddie Payton (Mississippi).    Dickens serves as the Area Representative and Director of High School ministries in East Alabama for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The 2005 Auburn graduate was a four-year letterman and starter for the Tigers. During his Auburn career, the Tigers went undefeated and were SEC Champions in 2004. Dickens finished his playing career for one season with the Tennessee Titans.
   Payton, the older brother of NFL great Walter Payton, played collegiately at Jackson State and then spent five seasons in the
NFL from 1977 to 1982 with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. He also played in the Canadian Football League.
     Payton, who is currently the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Jackson State, was primarily used as a kick and punt returner. He led the NFL with 53 kickoff returns for 1,184 yards in 1980. Payton ran back two kickoffs and a punt return for 
touchdowns in his career, two in the same game. On December 17, 1977, Payton returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns for the Lions against the Vikings.


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