By Russell Moore
Wallace State Media Relations
Like many college students, Wallace State sophomore Justin Holmes juggles a heavy course load and a full-time job. His responsibilities don’t end there. Holmes is also serving as the Lions’ baseball manager for a second season, but the time he cherishes most is spent with his brother, Jacob.
Justin and Jacob’s bond is unique. Sure, most brothers may live together and look out for each other in college, but the Holmes’ connection is different. Jacob was born with a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome, which limits him in certain capacities, including driving. Therefore, when Jacob needs a ride to get some lunch, groceries or to get away from the men’s dormitories, Justin is on the spot.
Jacob insists, though, that he’s very self-sufficient and prefers walking around campus more than asking his brother for a ride.
“I like to be independent. I know where I need to go on campus. I like to go to class by myself,” Jacob said. “If I need to find my brother, I usually guess where he is.”
Both Holmes’ boys grew up in Arley and attended Meek High. When Justin left home to head to Wallace State in August 2012, it was the first time he and Jacob didn’t live together.
“I really did miss him last year. I didn’t see much of him because I was always up here on campus and especially busy during baseball season. I took it for granted over the years that he was always around,” said Justin, who celebrated his 20th birthday Tuesday. “That’s why I realize I need to spend as much time with him as I can because I may not be around next year if I go off to another school.”
Jacob, a freshman, and Justin became roommates at Wallace State this past August.
A week before the fall semester started, Justin made it a priority to make sure Jacob was familiar with the Wallace State campus landscape, pointing out the places his brother may deem important.
“The first day we had moved in (to the dorms), I drove Jacob around campus to show him where certain buildings are. I made sure to show him where the library and student center were and the buildings where his classes would be,” Justin said. “Jacob loves to fend for himself. Since Jacob is so independent and doesn’t like to ask for help, I made sure to show him the best sidewalks to take to get to class the fastest.”
Jacob Holmes enjoys his science, movies and quiet time
A normal day on campus for Jacob includes going to class, returning to the dorm and engrossing himself into some of his favorite hobbies, which include surfing the Web, science and movies, among others.
“First, I’m at Wallace State because I want to get a better education,” Jacob said. “I like science and movies and like to research both of them on my iPad.”
Justin agrees that his brother is indeed a movie fanatic and interested in any science fiction material or anything related to Joss Whedon, who is most famous for writing or producing television shows and movies like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Avengers.”
And, Justin knows not to disturb his brother when he’s zoned in on his hobbies or studies.
“Jacob likes to keep himself and not to socialize at all, not even with me. Even though Jacob doesn’t like to talk to anybody, I just to have understand that’s how he is. He’ll have his headphones in, listening to something and if he thinks I’m too loud, he’ll still let me know. When Jacob does really need something, he’ll come to me, though,” Justin said. “Actually, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m really glad he’s here with me. I don’t have to worry about having a roommate who is wrapped up in smoking and drinking or getting rowdy.”
Jacob, who is also interested in business-related classes and atmospheric sciences, declared he’s smarter than his older brother.
“I’m smarter than him, a whole lot smarter,” Jacob added.
Justin concurs with his brother.
“Jacob can read a book and probably retype every word in the book that he read. He has a great memory,” Justin said. “He also loves puzzles. He can take a 2,000-piece puzzle and put it together in less than a day. It would probably take me a week to complete it.”
Justin says one of his brother’s limitations is focusing on tests for an extensive time.
“He is probably the smartest person at Wallace State, but he just struggles with tests. He is best at math, but his limitations make it harder with reading and English,” Justin said. “It also takes him a while to understand what people are asking him. If we’re around people and someone asks him a question, he’ll usually look at me before answering to either make sure he is going to say the right thing or if he understood correctly.”
Justin Holmes never slows down
Justin played basketball and baseball in high school and takes a lot of pride in his role as Wallace State’s baseball manager. It’s one of many hats Justin carries in his life. He is a brother, student, baseball manager and also works multiple nights a week at Carmike Cinemas in Cullman.
Wallace State baseball coach Randy Putman strongly admires Justin for his steadfastness, strong work ethic and love for his brother.
“Justin is very special to me and very special to our program. He’s very dependable, loyal and trustworthy, and that’s what you want in a manager. You ask Justin to do something and he does it, but now in his second year, he does stuff without me even asking,” Putman said. “Justin is one of the best managers I’ve ever had in 25 years. I’m very proud of him, not only for what he does for the team, but for how he takes care of his brother from sunup to sundown, while going to class in the morning, maintaining his responsibilities with us in the afternoon and working at night. It shows me Justin will be successful no matter what he chooses to do in life.”
Justin is pursuing a general studies degree at Wallace State and plans to transfer to a four-year institution and continue his career in education. He also hopes to coach either basketball or baseball at a junior high or high school one day.
“I love basketball and baseball. Sports are my passion,” Justin said.
Justin has worked at Carmike Cinemas mainly on the weekends during the fall semester, compiling as many hours as possible. Justin will have to alter his hours when the Wallace State baseball team starts its 2014 season in late January, but he’ll continue to work when his schedule allows.
“Things have been crazy for me since probably the middle of October. Sometimes it can get a little overwhelming, but I’ve honestly got used to taking care of so many things. School work comes first, and I have to study a lot, a whole lot, and more people show up at the movie theater during the holidays,” Justin said. “Once we start baseball games, I will change my hours and continue to work there. I want to continue to work in order to continue to buy groceries and put gas in the car.”
Justin’s baseball duties will increase considerably when the baseball season begins in late January and that schedule will continue until May.
Unlike Justin, one thing Jacob doesn’t like is sports.
Even so, when sophomore day arrives near the end of the season, Justin says it will be neat if Jacob shows up just for a few minutes as Justin is recognized.
“Jacob can leave once they call out my name. I’ll give him a wave to let him know he can leave,” Justin joked. “The only game he came to in high school was my final game. I remember him bringing a Sprite to the dugout.”
Added Jacob: “I went so my brother wouldn’t be disappointed, and I’ll try to do it again.”
Until then, Justin will treasure the time he has with his brother at Wallace State.
“There are a lot of rough moments at times to be honest, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Jacob doesn’t like anything out of the ordinary, and I tend to get out of the ordinary sometimes, so we do fight like any brothers,” Justin said. “Little things separate Jacob from doing what everyone else can do, but no matter how different we are, we love each other like most brothers do.”