Simmons has foundation to build winners at FAMU


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

So Willie Simmons left Prairie View A&M, its spiffy $60 million sports facility and a winning football program to come to FAMU.
That could be quantified in some quarters as being either not too smart or Simmons is just one of those millennials who thinks he has the answer for everything.

Neither. Not Simmons. His intelligence is proven and he’s too humble.

Simmons is a confident 37-year-old who had some of the best people to coach him as a star quarterback in his hometown Quincy. When he went to Clemson he had Tommy Bowden, who recruited him out of high school.

Rick Stockdale, who gave him his first job had a hand in his grooming, too, he’d tell you. He hasn’t forgotten Jay Hobson, who he assisted at Southern Miss, either.

His foundation was solid, too. Andy Gay discovered the natural talent Simmons had as a teenage quarterback. Ray Mathews refined it.
Coaches have a reminder that they’ll share with their players before games that says something about trusting their conditioning. In Simmons’ case he is relying on what he learned from some of the best that played the game before him.

What they taught you has worked out for you; hasn’t it Mr. Simmons?

“That’s the rewardi


ng part of coaching; when you take a guy and 20 years down the road you see he has gone on to do great things.”

Simmons can still call on any of those men who have profoundly touched his life to the point that he’s become a coveted coach.

“That’s what coaching is about; the lifelong lessons you learn from your coaches,” Simmons said. “I have learned a tremendous amount about life from all the guys.

Coaching at FAMU is going to be challenging beyond the x’s and o’s. Simmons has proven that he can fix that part.

The challenge is making that complete adjustment from what he had at Prairie View to a program that doesn’t have much more than the drawing of plans to begin upgrades at Bragg Stadium.

Simply put, Simmons is embarking on an undertaking for which he can handle, as his record has shown.

Just look at Alcorn State, Middle Tennessee State University, and of course, Prairie View.

Plus he’s passionate about wanting to return FAMU to the winning traditions. Yes, they are long gone.

Simmons sees value in embracing what the likes of Jake Gaither, Rudy Hubbard, Ken Riley and Billie Joe have done.

So he offered this: “Any great program has a respect for the path that was laid before them. That’s something we want to make sure the new Rattlers have; a respect for ground that was laid.”