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December 27, 2012

YEAR IN REVIEW (NO. 5): Simmons, Jones transform 2012 into year of the RB

CULLMAN — As the age-old saying goes, records are made to be broken.

Most of the meaningful ones don’t generally fall after a single year, though.

That was precisely what went down in the local football landscape in 2012, as two running backs with very different styles — Hanceville’s Diamond Simmons and Vinemont’s Ty Jones — jostled for Cullman County’s all-time marks in rushing yardage and touchdowns.

In mid-January, Simmons received his final piece of hardware for guiding the Bulldogs to their first undefeated regular season since 1977, taking home Class 3A Back of the Year honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Football banquet in Montgomery.

The All-State, Super 12, All-County, All-Area speedster averaged an astounding 16 yards a carry on his way to 2,106 yards and 28 touchdowns — both were county records at the time — on only 132 attempts. What made those stats even more impressive was that Simmons came off the sideline in the second half just three times in 2011 because of Hanceville’s high frequency for blowing out opponents.

“I’ve truly enjoyed my four years at Hanceville High,” Simmons told The Times following the announcement of the 3A Back of the Year finalists. “I thank God for the life he’s given me and our team. In football, like in life, if you work hard, good things will happen for you.”

That statement rang true for the then-senior shortly thereafter, as Simmons committed to attend and play football at the University of North Alabama, where he flashed his potential for greatness in limited playing time this past fall. The freshman took his very first collegiate carry 76 yards for a touchdown and added an 80-yard score two weeks later, finishing the season with 203 yards on 12 carries (16.9-yard average) and the two six-point plays.

Just seven months after Simmons brought the 3A Back of the Year to Cullman County, Vinemont’s Jones began his quest to keep it there, opening the 2012 campaign with 217- and 210-yard rushing performances in winning efforts versus Brindlee Mountain and Danville.

Those wild numbers, as well as the three touchdowns he claimed in each contest, were just a sign of what was to come for Jones and the Eagles. The senior bruiser wound up topping the 200-yard mark six times in 2012, not including the 317-yard total and third straight game with five touchdowns he tacked on in Vinemont’s season finale, a 33-24 comeback road victory over Randolph.

After adding 126 yards and one last score in the 8-3 Eagles’ first-round matchup versus then-No. 4 Lauderdale County, Jones wound up with 2,214 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns, topping the county records Simmons had posted only one year prior.

“To look at what Ty did is honestly pretty unbelievable,” Vinemont coach Alan Scott told The Times earlier this month. “I expected him to be a pretty good ballplayer for us, but for him to set the rushing yards and touchdowns mark was pretty remarkable.”

Jones, who also plays on the Eagles’ basketball and baseball teams, has yet to announce his college plans and whether he’ll continue playing football at the next level.

The ASWA will release its Back and Linemen of the Year finalists on Saturday.



% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.

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