Simmons says years at Clemson prepared him for new role

by - Senior Writer -
As a freshman, Simmons came off the bench and threw for 228 yards and a record-tying four touchdowns in Clemson's 38-24 win at North Carolina.
As a freshman, Simmons came off the bench and threw for 228 yards and a record-tying four touchdowns in Clemson's 38-24 win at North Carolina.

Willie Simmons walked into a high school football office recently, and ran into former Clemson defensive ends coach Chris Rumph, now at Alabama.

Simmons and Rumph had a brief chat, and then the high school prospect asked Simmons what position he coaches at Middle Tennessee St. Simmons had to give the player two answers, but the final one shows just how far the former Clemson quarterback has come in a very short time.

“We are good buddies, and we were talking about me becoming coordinator,” Simmons told TigerNet. “I was talking to a recruit and he asked me what position I coached and I responded ‘running backs.’ Coach Rumph started laughing, and I took a deep breath and said, ‘offensive coordinator’. It still hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s still kind of surreal. I’m really excited and fired up and ready to go.”

MTSU’s offensive coordinator recently left to take a job at Texas St., and former Clemson coach and current Blue Raider head coach Rick Stockstill didn’t have to look far to find a replacement, naming Simmons as his man to run the offense.

Simmons earned a degree in sports marketing from Clemson in 2002, becoming the earliest football player to graduate at Clemson when he accomplished the feat in just three years.

Now, the fast-learner has the keys to the Blue Raider offense.

“Head coach Stockstill showed some interest in me, and last year, we had talked a little bit about the chance of me becoming a coordinator,” Simmons said. “I told him about my career path and what I was looking for and he told me that he saw the qualities in me that I would be a good coordinator. He said that if a position came open in the near future that I would be one of the guys on his short list. I kept working hard and stayed loyal. An opportunity presented itself this year and coach Stockstill was gracious enough to offer it to me.”

Simmons told TigerNet that his style of offense will be predicated on what he learned as a player under former Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.

“I will coach like Rich Rodriguez and Tony Franklin, the spread guys of the world,” Simmons said. “That’s what I played in at Clemson when Coach Rodriguez implemented that offense 10 or 11 years ago. I really fell in love with it. I love the aspect of spreading people out, playing with great tempo, and taking advantage of mismatches. Since I played in it and was fortunate enough to coach under Coach Franklin- he’s implemented is own style of the system. I’ve studied those guys over the last 10 or 11 years. I think I have a great understanding of what we need to do offensively as far as personnel and tempo.”

Simmons said he considers himself blessed to become a coordinator at this stage of his career, especially considering that other coaches have to wait far longer for a job as a coordinator.

“I’m extremely blessed, and I’ve said that since I entered this profession six years ago,” he said. “God has definitely had His finger on me the whole time. Going from a high school coach for a year down in Tallahassee to being a graduate assistant for one season and then Coach Stockstill hiring me for his staff at 26.

“Then five years later becoming a Division I coordinator. It’s not me. I’ve worked hard and put in a lot of time and effort but it’s definitely the good Lord having His finger on me and my life. I just plan to give back by working hard, staying true to myself and being the best coach that I can be for these young men.”

Simmons, a native of Quincy, Fla., lettered three years as a quarterback at Clemson from 2000-2002 and passed for 2,530 yards and 16 touchdowns in 24 games. As a freshman, Simmons came off the bench for a hurt Woody Dantzler and threw for 228 yards and a record-tying four touchdowns in Clemson's 38-24 win at North Carolina to earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. Simmons played two years as a backup to Dantzler before becoming the starter in 2002.

Following three years at Clemson, Simmons transferred to the Citadel in 2003 and earned first team All-Southern Conference honors.

Simmons made his way to Murfreesboro in 2007 after one season on Tommy Bowden's staff at Clemson, where he was a graduate assistant. Simmons worked with the offense while handling various other duties with the program.

Before joining Bowden's staff, Simmons served as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Lincoln (FL) High School in 2005.

He said his heart will always have a special place in it for Clemson.

“There are many moments I can look back on, but it’s really the whole experience that I got at Clemson,” he said. “It’s priceless. Regardless of how people perceive my career, whether it was a success or failure, it has molded me into the man I am today. Had I not gone through everything I went through, I would not be the man I am today. Had I not persevered and stayed true to myself and not worked hard, I would not be here. Coach Stockstill has been like a father figure to me for all these years. I met a lot of people that I still talk to today.

“Coach Bowden, believe it or not, and I still have a great relationship. Everything I went through has shaped me and put me in a position to be where I am today. Being a college coach and recruiter, I try to tell these young men that the decision that you make will be a lifetime decision and the experiences you go through in college will be what molds you for the rest of your life. I wouldn’t change it for the whole world. I would love to be a Heisman Trophy winner and a national championship winner, but I can’t trade the experiences that I got and the contacts that I made and where it’s put me, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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