Finding His Voice: WVU’s T.J. Simmons

West Virginia receiver TJ Simmons gains yardage after a reception
West Virginia receiver TJ Simmons gains yardage after a reception

West Virginia wide receiver T.J. Simmons has always had a friendly, outgoing personality. However, it took the fifth-year senior from Birmingham, Alabama, a while to learn how to use that to make himself heard.

It wasn’t that Simmons was afraid to speak.

Far from it.

Always vocal, smiling and easy to find in a crowd, he brings energy wherever he’s located. However, when it came to more weighty issues, including those of social justice, it took him a bit longer to figure out how to marshal his thoughts and use his position in the best way possible.

“On behalf of the West Virginia football team, our thoughts go out to Jacob Blake and his family.  We want to say that we want change in this world, and the WVU football team is promoting change. We are trying to figure out things we can do to push for change in this country.”
— T.J. Simmons

“As a redshirt freshman, I was outspoken, but I wasn’t the guy who was going to stand up and lead a group,” he related. “I was still in the background trying to figure out who I was and trying to find my way. With the years of experience I have now, I am more open to talking and speaking out on things.”

A year ago, this process would have covered items such as taking a leadership role in his position group, or in the locker room as a voice the entire team would listen to. He might have been advising a younger teammate on the intricacies of a pass route, or on the importance of balancing nutrition, rest and work.

Now, however, there’s an entirely new, and very important angle in which he can bring his thoughts and beliefs to bear. That’s the movement for social justice and equality in the U.S., which has dominated headlines in this very turbulent year.

West Virginia receiver T.J. Simmons (1) celebrates the first of his two touchdowns
West Virginia receiver T.J. Simmons (1) 

Simmons took time at the beginning of a remote interview session on Saturday to offer a brief statement on behalf of the team. His measured approach in doing so showed, on several levels, why he is a perfect spokesman.

“On behalf of the West Virginia football team, our thoughts go out to Jacob Blake and his family.  We want to say that we want change in this world, and the WVU football team is promoting change. We are trying to figure out things we can do to push for change in this country.”

Simmons was specifically referencing the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On a broader level, he was also noting that he and his teammates are aware of the push for a better society, and are working to support those initiatives.

West Virginia’s coaching staff has also been helping the players in using their influence. Simmons mentioned a recent question from head coach Neal Brown that helped him reflect on what he can do.

“Coach Brown posed a question to us, ‘What can I (meaning each player) do to create change?'” Simmons said. “One thing I wrote down was to use my voice to spread the word to educate people on things they might not know.”

Change has to come on many levels, and be pushed from many angles. Change can be painful, just like the incidents that created it. Simmons understands that speaking out is just one of many items that have to come together in order to make things better.

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“Just being who I am, I realized that I have a big platform, and a lot of people listen to what I say,” he said. “My teammate Boosie (Osman) Kamara is on the diversity committee we have, and that is built to promote things that we want to get changed. He told us the athletic department is having a march (on Sunday) so that’s one thing we are going to do. We are going to get out show that we are all united as a football team and as an athletic department at West Virginia.”

Brown, for his part, supports his players. His 5th Quarter program, which is intended to help his players develop in all aspects of life, both on and off the field, include character and leadership development, along with real life and social responsibility as pillars. There’s probably no better evidence of taking those lessons and putting them into practice than Simmons did on Saturday.




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Home Page forums Finding His Voice: WVU’s T.J. Simmons

Home Page forums Finding His Voice: WVU’s T.J. Simmons