Simmons focused on future at Mississippi State

Jeffrey Simmons, right
Staff Writer

Jeffery Simmons was a model student and football player at Noxubee County with a 4.0 grade point average and a five-star rating as one of the most coveted recruits in the country.
Shortly after he signed with Mississippi State following his senior year, that wholesome image suddenly faded away as he made a decision that will forever haunt him. That decision also jeopardized his future that has him all but set for a long NFL career barring injury.
Simmons was caught on camera in a physical altercation with a woman in Macon. When MSU chose to stand by Simmons, the national landscape criticized head coach Dan Mullen and former Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. When he was only given a one-game suspension last year, the criticism was even louder.
Now Simmons is looking to show that the young man in the video wasn’t him. He’s worked hard at rebuilding his image and answered with Freshman All-American honors on the field and a member of the All-Southeastern Conference Honor Roll in the classroom. He said his biggest goal before he graduates is being an Academic All-American.
“I’ve just been putting everything behind me and moving forward,” Simmons said. “From doing what I do in the classroom and being a leader on the team, I feel like I’ve grown a lot. Coach Mullen always says focus on what you have in front of you right now and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The freakishly talented defensive lineman had a strong freshman year despite learning the nuances of the SEC. Simmons had 40 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss but made an impact by drawing double teams.
This year he feels like help is on the way to take pressure off himself in the middle. He’s looking to redshirt freshman Kobe Jones and his backup nose guard Lee Autry to help produce on the line.
“Kobe Jones’ motor helps the defensive line out," Simmons said. "His motor off the edge is going to help me inside because maybe I won’t get double teamed. I hope Lee Autry develops more as a player during camp because I can’t play a whole game. Hopefully those guys will be ready to play.”
Simmons also expects a different defense all together than the one that hit the field a year ago as one of the worst in the SEC and in the country.
New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has impressed the sophomore linemen and he’s turned to him for advice on how he can improve. He’s also put his trust in the veteran play caller to help get him to the next level.
“I love coach Grantham because of his energy and enthusiasm," Simmons said. "He has a feeling for his players. Getting to know him was kind of easy. I talked to him over the break and I told him, ‘I want you to get me to the top and be the best pass rusher in the SEC.’”
Likewise, Simmons believes his position coach can help just the same.
Brian Baker got a chance to work with Simmons in year one and was thoroughly impressed with what he brought to the field. Baker also mentioned the work that Simmons has put in the weight room and transforming his body as he got stronger but trimmed up to help himself athletically.
Baker also noticed the leadership skills that Simmons possessed. He saw a player that didn’t dwell on his past mistakes but that took ownership and moved forward.
“Leaders lead by example," Baker said. "Leaders are guys that can hold themselves accountable for what they do on the field, but also their preparation. He is a guy that absolutely hates to be wrong, almost to a fault. He ain’t getting beat by anybody and that’s his mentality.”
Finally, Simmons feels that he’s back to who he wants to be as a person and a player. It’s a good thing for his coaches and his teammates who need him representing the institution at the highest level and he embraces that.
“I’ve always been a leader on and off the field and I feel like I can stand up to coach Mullen’s standards as a leader,” Simmons said. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to do is be a leader of an SEC team. I feel like I’m getting to that point.
“My team is going to expect a lot out of me. It’s going to be a good show this year because I feel like I still have some things to prove.”