FLORENCE — National Signing Day meant a little bit more to Malik Manciel than some of his teammates.
Sure, the 6-foot-3, 235 pound Florence defensive end signed an athletic scholarship Wednesday to play football at Division 1 Middle Tennessee State, but there was more to it.
“I’m the first one in my family to ever go to college, so it’s a big deal for me today,” Manciel said Wednesday. “It’s just amazing. It shows that hard work really does pay off.”
Manciel, a three-star who had eight Division 1-FBS offers, recorded 70 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, nine pass break-ups, one interception and one forced fumble, said he wanted to attend somewhere close to home so his family could watch him play.
“They all liked (Middle Tennessee State) because it was closer and they could catch more games and could see me play more and wanted to be there to support me,” Manciel said.
Coach J.B. Wallace said Manciel held his own at school and resolved to seek help from a classmate or someone if he needed to spend extra time on a subject.
“He does a very good job in the classroom,” Wallace said. “He doesn’t mind asking for help outside the classroom and does what he can to be successful.”
That desire to succeed translated on the football field as he led the team to a record-breaking 11-3 record and a semifinal appearance in the Class 6A playoffs.
“Malik plays with a lot of energy,” Wallace said. “That’s what he brings to the table. He can handle a lot of situations and is one of the leaders of that senior class.”
Manciel said his goal is to play immediately next season and looks forward to keeping teammate, and future roommate, Chandler Brewer, with him a bit longer.
“(The coaching staff) did an amazing job recruiting me, and it was very family-orientated,” Manciel said. “I’ve got my big partner Chandler Brewer going with me, so we get to go at it for another (few years), so that’s always fun.”
Athletic director Byron Graham said he’s proud of what Manciel has accomplished and praised his work ethic.
“Malik was determined to give himself the opportunity,” Graham said. “He was determined to get better year in and year out and do all the right things. He wanted to make sure that academics were important. I think he has a tremendous upside. He’s always talking about working when others are taking a day off.”
John McWilliams can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @TD_JMcWilliams.