Two star Hanceville athletes who have been teammates since they were around 7 or 8 years old will play football on fields 1,745 miles apart after signing offers with different colleges.

Diamond Simmons committed to the University of North Alabama in Florence, while Broc Malcom inked a letter of intent to play for Idaho State University in Pocatello. Both athletes made their decisions official Wednesday afternoon during a signing ceremony in front of the student body.

“It was really difficult,” Malcom said. “We’ve always talked about going to college together and playing football for the rest of our lives together. But he chose what was best for him, and I chose what was best for me. We’ll stay in touch, of course.”

The duo received full-ride scholarship offers from the Lions and the Bengals, but Malcom was still mulling over which one to pick right up until the last second.

“It was the biggest decision of my life, so I wanted to make sure 100 percent it was going to be the right choice for me,” he said.

Malcom said he ultimately went with Idaho State because of how hard the school recruited him and how impressed he was during an official visit last weekend.

The tri-sport athlete said he enjoyed the coaching staff and the players he interacted with, as well as the fact he was told he’ll be utilized as a wide receiver in a spread offense that relies heavily on the passing game.

For a scholar like Malcom, the Bengals’ reputation as a distinguished research university probably didn’t hurt matters, either.

“I liked the academic program up there and what the school has to offer,” he said.

While Malcom will be making the lengthy trip out West after graduation this May, Simmons won’t have to travel too far north to get to the Lions’ campus.

“I’m really pumped, to be honest,” said Simmons, who was recently named the Class 3A Back of the Year. “I’m just ready to go to college and see what’s in store up there. I really think UNA is a good place for me to go.”

Ultimately picking a different school than one of his best friends and teammates wasn’t easy, but the speedster said he was confident he made the right decision. Simmons hopes everyone else sees it that way, too.

“When we succeed, the whole community succeeds,” he said. “But when it boils down to it, it comes down to us succeeding. We’re going to be the ones playing football and going to college.”

The tailback said the Lions’ coaching staff has already discussed the “high possibility” he will be redshirted his freshman year in order to bulk up and make room for the large number of senior running backs already on the roster. After a season on the sidelines and in the weight room, they expect Simmons to be deadlier than ever.

“As I get bigger, faster and gain weight, they told me I can be unreal once I get on the field,” he said. “That’s what they’re looking for in a running back.”

Simmons, whose ultimate goal is to play in the NFL, feels this is just one early step in the right direction.

“I think I have a bright future ahead of me,” he said. “God has given me the answer, so hey, I’m ready.”

As their football coach during their prep careers, Danny Miller couldn’t be prouder of Malcom and Simmons.

“Those two guys have equipped themselves with everything they need to be successful in whatever they choose to do,” he said. “It’s big for their families and also big for Hanceville.”

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

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