Simmons beats the odds with his first recruiting class


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook writer

Trying to put in perspective what Willie Simmons faced when he was hired in December as FAMU’s new head football coach, brought to mind a fitting line from the Forest Gump movie.

“Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

See, Simmons only had two months to do what other coaches had been doing for at least a year.

That really put Simmons in a position where he didn’t know what he was going to get. What he ended up with is amazing, though.

Amazing just thinking he got most of the talent he needs that could help turn the FAMU football program around.

He had to have seen on film that  the Rattlers’ dept and speed were in dire need. He got a lot of that on both the offensive and defensive lines when he signed Godby’s defensive tackle Richard Summers and offensive lineman Terrence Cambridge out of FAMU High.

In all, Simmons did a pretty impressive job with the six players he signed from area schools. Overall his class includes 25 signees.

Clearly he wants  the  Rattlers to be stronger in the trenches with the emphasis he put on the lines.

“I firmly believe that defense starts with the defensive line,” Simmons said. “No matter how good the secondary is; or the linebackers, if you don’t have defensive linemen who can control the run and put pressure on the quarterback it’s going to make it tough for those defensive backs.”

Simmons said a lot of the right things on signing day, but nothing was as profound as his statement about building for the future.

It was different. Too many FAMU coaches seemed stuck in the school’s past greatness.

“Right now let’s look at the future and what we could become,” he said.

And he wants every player – new and old – to take ownership to making the program great.

“I think every student-athlete wants that feeling of being a difference,” he said. “A lot of guys want to be a part of something they can say they built together.”
If that gets through, the next group of Rattlers will be a pretty proud bunch.

And, Simmons isn’t done trying to get more like those.

He’s even willing to go coast to coast if he has to.

“If they’re in Atlanta, we’ve got to go to Atlanta,” he said. “If they’re in Miami, we’ve got to go to Miami. If they’re in California we’ve got to find a way to get to California to sign them if they want to be Rattlers.”

Now, which Rattlers fan wouldn’t feel hopeful after hearing that.

Having continued success will require a new-generation approach, something that Simmons seemingly knows well. Recruiting is no longer as it was just a few years ago.

It’s come down to social media or nothing, period.

“You’re wasting your time picking up the phone and dialing a number,” he said. “You’re probably not going to reach them. You have to be caught up to the times and the way they do things.”