Panthers trio announce college choices

By T. Scott Boatright

A trio of Lincoln Preparatory School football players announced their college intentions Monday as they signed on to continue their gridiron careers on the next level.

Athletes DMitry Payne and Tarrell Simmons inked National Letters of Intent with Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, while offensive lineman Imani Marcel signed a Preferred Walk-On agreement with Grambling State University.

The two Lane College signees will move on to play under head coach Vyron Brown, who had previously served as offensive coordinator at Grambling and Lincoln Prep before taking over as OC at Lane in 2018.

Brown was promoted to head coach of the Dragons in January of 2020 and Lincoln Prep graduate Taviaun Turner played his senior season for Lane in 2021. 

From Lincoln Prep, Brown will be getting a pair of players who can both play receiver and defensive back, with Payne also excelling at kick and punt returnees. Simmons meanwhile, played a lot at quarterback for the Panthers as a senior simply because of team need.

“Vyron Brown was on our staff here and has kept up with our program and knows all about these two guys,” said Lincoln Prep coach Glen Hall. “He’s getting two hard working, skilled athletes, but most importantly, two players who are students of the game and work to get better at it all of the time.”

Payne accounted for 2,482 total yards and 23 touchdowns on 98 touches season. That adds up to  a staggering 25.3 yards every time he touched the ball.

The 5-11, 160-pounder hauled in 58 passes for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns, returned 27 kickoffs for 1,231 yards and another seven TDs while adding 231 rushing yards and seven more scores on only 13 carries.

“Meci (Payne) is a threat to score any time he touches the ball,” said Lincoln Prep head coach Glen Hall. “He’s one of the more exciting and explosive players I’ve ever coached. The moves and cuts he makes, and that burst and ability he has with his speed that allows him to blow past anyone trying to catch is really something special. Something rare. 

“But he’s also a shut-down corner,” Hall said. “He’s already defined as a cornerback and knows things like the ‘step and slide.’ He knows the ‘mirror motor,’ and knows everything that most college guys are just starting to get on that level.”

Having Simmons joining him on the journey to Lane College become Dragons is something Payne said he is excited about.

“That’s my brother,” Payne said. “We’ve been together since the ninth grade. So we knew we had to make it happen and keep the team together.”

Payne said he hasn’t talked to the Lane staff about their plans for him.

“I really liked playing (defensive back), but they haven’t really talked to me about all of that,” Payne said.

Simmons feels most comfortable at receiver, but the 6-1, 160-pounder connected on 93-of-165 pass attempts for 1,301 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions while adding 971 rushing yards and 13 scores on 102 carries.

“I’ll do whatever they ask me to, but I’m hoping to play receiver,” Simmons said. 

Marcel will try to walk on under the new regime of new Grambling State head coach Hue Jackson.

“I chose Grambling because I wanted to become part of the HBCU community,” said Marcel, who added that he plans to major in business. “It’s an exciting time for Grambling. It’s a fresh coaching staff and they’re bound to do great things,  and I’m just happy to be part of Coach Jackson’s program.”

The 6-3, 380-plus pounder will likely play left guard for the G-Men but showed over his prep career that he’s also capable of playing tackle and center when needed.

“I believe my versatility is a strength of mine,” Marcel said. “And I think that’s part of the reason the coaches feel I can become an important part of the team. I’m just going to keep working hard and make something great happen.”


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