The Alabama to Philadelphia connection

Published 7:08 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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When James Holman Outlaw was six months old, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the retina.

The diagnosis came as a shock to Holman’s parents, Jim and Allyson Outlaw, of Brundidge. Holman was a typical, rambunctiously happy baby boy. But, with one word, cancer, Holman’s life path took a drastic change and so did the lives of his parents.

After a lot of prayer, Jim and Allyson made the decision to have Holman treated by Dr. Carol Shields, an Ocular Oncology Specialist in Philadelphia.

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“Philadelphia was a long way from home but Dr. Shields was recommended as the best,” Jim said. “We didn’t know what was ahead for Holman and us. We just felt like Dr. Shields was who Holman needed and Philadelphia was where we needed to be.”

Every 28 days, for the next year, Jim, Allyson and little Holman made the long journey to Philadelphia. They stayed at the original Ronald McDonald House where they met other families with children who were going through cancer treatment. Friendships were formed, children to children and parents to parents.

After more than a year, Holman’s treatments began to be spaced out. Slowly. Trips to Philadelphia remained regular but less frequent. The Outlaw family used their time in Philadelphia to visit the historic sites and learn more about Philadelphia and the role the city played in America’s history.

“The historic sites were as familiar to Little Holman as downtown Brundidge,” Jim said. “He had two hometowns.”

After five years, prayers were answered.  Holman was cancer free. However, regular checkups were required. By the time baby, Ally-Anna, joined the family, the trips to Philadelphia were less stressful and more like vacations. The family toured the historic sites and went to ballgames — the 76’ers and the Phillies. By that time, Holman, like his parents, had become a dedicated University of Alabama fan. Denny Chimes held its place with Independence Hall.

Holman attended Carroll High School in Ozark. He played football on Friday nights and journeyed to Alabama Crimson Tide football games on Saturdays with his die-hard UA family.

When the time came to decide which college/university he wanted to attend Holman didn’t have to think twice. 

“Alabama,” he said. “Where else?”

Holman applied to the Capstone and was accepted. He thought he couldn’t be happier. But then he got an internship with Alabama Crimson Tide athletics. 

He began as a student videographer for the football team during his freshman year and throughout his undergraduate years. As Holman focused on his major, Kinesiology and exercise science, he began working as a student assistant in strength and conditioning along with videography. He was awarded an internship in strength and conditioning with the football program

“I have been very fortunate to be involved with Alabama athletics,” Holman said. “I cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing or anywhere I’d rather be.

“It’s great to see Alabama players go on to be successful in the NFL. Right now, Alabama has four Philadelphia Eagles that will play the Kansas City Chiefs for the Super Bowl LVII Championship on Sunday. That’s going to be exciting.”

For Holman, there is no hesitation about who he hopes is the Super Bowl LVII Champion.

“The Eagles, the Philadelphia Eagles,” he said. “Philadelphia has been and is a special place in my life,” he said. “I’ve made 55 trips to Philadelphia with my family and Dr. Shields saved my eye and maybe my life. And, there are four players from my university, Alabama, on the team. I’d like for them to be Super Bowl champions.”

And, among them, is quarterback, Jalen Hurts. Holman would especially like to see him lead the way to the championship.

“I have a lot of respect for Jalen,” he said. “He led by example. I had the opportunity to see how he handled losing the starting quarterback role at Alabama. He continued to support his teammates and Alabama. I’d like to see him a winner on Sunday. Eagles 34, Kansas City Chiefs, 24.”

Holman Outlaw has recently been named the head strength coach for the University of Alabama Swimming and Diving team. He will also be an assistant strength coach for football and rowing. 

Holman might have to miss Super Bowl LVII. He will be at the SEC Swimming Championships in College Station, Texas, on Sunday.