Sign on the Dotted Line

Four Wildcats commit to play sports in college

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 7, 2008 - Four Sulphur Springs seniors made their college decisions final on Wednesday, as three signed binding letters of intent to play football and another to play baseball at the next level.

Brittan Diamond, a two-sport athlete who also had offers in football, decided to go the baseball route and signed with Texarkana College. Alongside him, classmates Tyler Francis (Stephen F. Austin State University), Rodney Evans (Kilgore College) and Dequalin "Boo" Evans (Navarro College) all inked to play football.

They all signed their commitments in the SSHS Media Center in front of family and coaches on National Signing Day, the first chance to formally commit.

"Each and every one of them are great leaders, and I'm excited for them all. They're part of that senior leadership I've talked so much about," said SSHS head football coach and athletic director Greg Owens. "They're very talented young men.

"I'm glad they are all staying close to home, because I think home is important to each one of them."

Brittan Diamond

Diamond, the son of Steve and LaClaire Diamond, was recently named Honorable Mention All-State linebacker in football. But, his mind was already made up to play baseball in college.

And why not? He was the District MVP in baseball last year and was Honorable Mention All-State in that sport as well. As a junior, he compiled an 8-3 record with a 1.47 ERA on the mound, plus he hit .347 and led the team in hits, runs, doubles and triples.

He decided to go to a junior college for the opportunity to start right away, and because of the connections that the Texarkana staff has with Div. I universities.

"The head coach is from Nebraska, and the other coaches are from (Texas) A&M and Colorado, so it's all about the connections," said Diamond. "I'd like to go the Juco route first to get some experience under my belt before I go DII or DI."

He will pitch and play third base for the Bulldogs.

"It's always been Brittan's goal since he was a little kid to be a college athlete, football or baseball," said Brittan's father, a former coach. "He had a lot of interest in football, and could have gone the football route, but baseball has always been his first love. He had some interest from bigger schools, but this way, he can step right in and get some playing time."

SSHS head coach Jerrod Hammack will have Diamond one more season.

"We're going to relish this year because you don't get kids like Brittan very often," Hammack said. "He's one of the top two leaders that I've ever coached in 12 years. He's a great talent and a great competitor."

Tyler Francis

A two-year starter at defensive end, Francis was one of the most improved players on the team in his senior season, said Owens.

That led him to being named the District 11-4A Defensive Lineman of the Year and a Second Team All-State selection by the Texas Sports Writers Association.

It also drew the interest of Stephen F. Austin, an NCAA Div. I-AA program in Nacogdoches.

"Tyler had a great year. He's really improved since we've gotten here and he's been committed to what we've asked him to do," said Owens, an SFA alumni. "He showed great leadership, coming up in the summer. I'm excited for him and the opportunity he has. It's a neat place and a neat environment. It's well deserving, and he's worked his tail off to get to where he is."

Francis (6-5, 240), the son of Richard and Janeen Francis, will likely be used in the same role he had at Sulphur Springs, as a rush end in a 4-3 alignment. As a senior, he had 89 tackles, including a team-high 11 for losses. He also had 3.5 sacks.

"We're excited, said his father, Richard. "We think he's worked hard and has the opportunity of a lifetime."

Rodney Evans

Evans was about 30 pounds lighter this football season than last, but the 6-foot, 220-pound defensive lineman made up for his smaller size with much more quickness.

The quickness, which led to a First Team All-District selection, 657 tackles and 4.5 sacks, was what caught recruiters' attention, said Owens.

"They loved his quickness, and will probably put some more size on him," the coach explained. "He lost about 30 pounds, and I think I paid off for him in quickness and getting off the ball. He's done a great job, and I'm excited for him."

He picked Kilgore College because of their winning tradition and proximity to home. He had interest from four-year colleges, but decided on the junior college route.

At Kilgore, he will play a rush end, which will fit his talents, though he played an interior lineman for the Wildcats, said SSHS defensive line coach Rodney Flowers.

"Rodney will fit in at Kilgore," Flowers said. "He was the inside guy for me. He ran down plays from the back side and held his gap. He lost weight, but he didn't lose any strength."

As proof, Flowers pointed to Evans' powerlifting talent. He won the last meet he participated in, and was a regional qualifier last year.

Evans' mother, Shawnita Yvette Emery, watched as her son signed his letter of intent. She thanked Owens and Flowers for helping him reach his goal of playing college football.

Dequalin Evans

When Evans finished his Wildcat football career, he left with the career touchdown record, having caught 16 as a two-year varsity starter. This year, he hauled in 52 passes for 737 yards and nine TDs.

At Navarro College in Corsicana, he may play inside receiver, though he was mostly an outside receiver for the Wildcats. The Bulldogs run the spread formation, the same as Sulphur Springs.

"Boo was our deep threat," Owens said. "He did a great job of going deep. He had a fantastic year for us. I'm excited for him and his family.

"He'll fit into a situation much like ours. He has a great opportunity to use his skills."

His best route at Sulphur Springs was the fade, where he used his height (6-1, 170 pounds) and leaping ability to snatch the ball out of the air. He also has good speed, having ran on the Wildcats' regional-qualifying 4x-200-meter relay last year as a junior.

SSHS offensive coordinator Jeff Riordan also praised Evans' downfield blocking ability.

Evans' mother, LaTonya Evans, said she is ready to make the drive to Corsicana to watch her son play.

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