CLEMSON - Willie Simmons grew up in Florida State's shadow, so he knows all
about the mystique surrounding the Seminole football program.
And he knows what it would mean to make his first collegiate start against
what amounts to his hometown team.
"It would be like a dream come true, really," said the redshirt freshman
quarterback from Quincy, Fla., which is just a few short miles from
Tallahassee. "I've been at Florida State games before. I know the
With starting quarterback Woody Dantzler's status for Saturday's Atlantic
Coast Conference championship showdown with the 'Noles still in question
because of continuing problems stemming from his leg injury, Simmons may
realize the dream of facing the tradition-laden Seminoles.
But the opportunity almost came about a year too soon.
When FSU visited Death Valley in 1999, Simmons was in the middle of riding
out his redshirt year. That is until Dantzler looked as if he may have to
leave the game after taking a shot from a Seminole defender. While the CU
training staff attended to Dantzler on the field, a nervous Simmons put on
his helmet and began throwing warm-up tosses on the sideline.
"The first thing that was going through my mind was - This is my big chance
to get in and play in front of a nationally-televised audience against the
No. 1 team in the nation," he said. "I was excited."
But after the excitement died down, the same thought that everyone else in
the building was thinking crept into Simmons' mind.
"I didn't want to go in for just a couple of plays. I didn't know how severe
the injury was," Simmons said of staring at losing a year of eligibility in
the face. "I didn't want to waste a whole year on maybe three of four plays.
But if I was going to have a chance to get in (the game), I wouldn't have
The injury turned out to be minor. Simmons didn't get his chance, thereby
saving his redshirt status.
But on Saturday, whether he makes his first start or not, he will see
considerable action. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden sees that as a plus for down
the road, rather than something to be nervous about.
"I'm not scared (of possibly having to start Simmons)," Bowden said at his
weekly Tuesday press conference. "There's a lot of teams that's had to go
with a redshirt freshman quarterback because of injury... it's going to be a
growth process that's going to be beneficial to us... if (Simmons) has to
start and play."
What will benefit Simmons the most on Saturday may be the tremendous amount
of support he undoubtedly will receive from a ton of family and friends in
the area, even if all of them aren't in attendance at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"A lot of people are trying to get tickets, but you know those Florida State
tickets are hard to come by," Simmons said with a grin. "Every time I go
home, people want tickets... for this game in particular. But if all of them
aren't at the game, I'm pretty sure everybody at home will have their TVs on
cheering us on."
They'll all be tuning in to watch their homeboy realize his dream - to play,
possibly even start, against his hometown team.