Shown left to right at Wednesday’s signing ceremony are Antonio Bautista, Fred Ellis, Romael Simmons and R.J. Evans. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)
HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Four senior Hanceville Bulldog football players signed athletic scholarships Wednesday to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level. A huge crowd of family and fellow students was there for the ceremony in Lane Horton Gymnasium to see Antonio Bautista, Fred Ellis, Romael Simmons and R.J. Evans sign on to play for Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, LaGrange College in Georgia, Bethel University in Tennessee and Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, respectively.
Hanceville Bulldogs Head Football Coach Cody McCain was proud to see his players take advantage of their opportunities and said he hopes younger athletes in the crowd of spectators were inspired by this group of seniors.
“It’s a really great accomplishment for them. For a school our size to have four seniors that are signing to play at the next level is a big deal and I’m really proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” McCain said. “It’s good for them and good for our school and for our students to be able to see them sign and know that it’s possible to go to the next level playing at a small high school. It’s just a great day for us altogether.”
All four of the signees are going out of state to continue their careers, so each of them will face similar challenges after graduation. They are all going to miss the time they’ve spent together playing in Hanceville, but they’re also ready to see what the next level has in store for them.
“I will miss competing against people that I’ve known around the county and I’ll miss being able to teach the younger kids how to do the right stuff,” Bautista said. “But when I get to college, they’re going to teach me.”
“I’m going to miss the high school atmosphere. There’s nothing like a high school football game,” said Ellis. “I am ready to see what the college atmosphere is like and to see how much different it is. College games are faster-paced and everything so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like.”
“I’m going to miss my friends, my coaches and just the environment around here,” shared Simmons, “but I’m just excited to play at the next level, playing safety.”
“I’m just going to miss all my friends and playing with them and stuff but I’m ready for the next level,” Evans said. “I’m ready to get better and get to the Power Five like I want to go.”
Just before the end of the ceremony, each of the players shared a few words with the crowd, but Evans had to stand up when the mic made it to him. He wanted to share a message with the underclassmen he has played with as well as speak about how his coaches at Hanceville have affected his life.
“To all of the underclassmen below me, I want to tell y’all to just stay in the classroom and push yourself because that matters more than anything. You have to have the grades to play,” Evans said.
“I want to thank Coach McCain and every coach in here including (basketball) Coach Stephen Chandler. He made me the best person I could be. He brought my character to a whole other level. I was a little prick I guess you could say,” Evans joked. “I was mean to everybody, but he made me into a better person, a better teammate and I want to thank you coach for everything you’ve done for me.”
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