WVU’s T.J. Simmons Produces; ‘Not Afraid Of The Moment’
NORMAN, Okla. — West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown has more than one way to describe players who are stalwarts, who can be counted on to perform in any situation.
Earlier this year, he described offensive tackle Colton McKivitz as “a dude.” In Brown’s evaluation, that’s a player who performs game in and game out, and does everything right on and off the field.
Following the Mountaineers’ 52-14 loss to Oklahoma, Brown noted that wide receiver T.J. Simmons “isn’t afraid of the moment”. It’s a similar compliment to the “dude” appellation, given to a player who competes and doesn’t shrink from competition, no matter who is lining up across from him, and no matter what the environment.
WVU, at this point, is in short supply of dudes who aren’t afraid of the moment, but that’s just another item that the Mountaineers must improve as they build their program. They need more players like McKivitz and Simmons, but where does play at that level come from? Talent, of course, is a factor, but so too is attitude, work ethic and a host of other factors.
“My dad always told me growing up big players make big plays in big games,” the ever-positive Simmons said after the loss. “So whenever the pressure is on I try to step up and make those plays, and be a guy who is always doing what he is supposed to be doing and lifting the team up.”
He certainly did that for the Mountaineers in this game, proving himself to be their most consistent threat. He had game highs in receptions (six), yards (74) and touchdowns (two) as he helped keep WVU in the contest in the first half. His first score, a 38-yard catch and run on fourth and six from the OU 38, displayed the determination and drive that makes one a dude, and unafraid of the moment. Catching the ball on a cross, Simmons fended off a potential tackler and scooted down the right sideline for West Virginia’s first score.
Three drives later, he worked his way across the end zone while Kendall eluded pressure, and found an opening in the end zone for his second scoring catch. The problem, of course is that West Virginia has few other players capable of producing as consistently.
That’s where another aspect of being a leader comes in.
“There are a lot of guys on our team who haven’t played in big games and who haven’t been in those moments,” said Simmons, who is working to bring them along, bu who understands that there’s no substitute for that experience. “I just try to tell them to keep a level head, to keep focused on the task at hand and execute the plays.”
For his part, Simmons has confidence in his own talent as part of the package, but is quick to point out that it’s the fundamentals that put him into position to make plays.
“I am confident in my abilities, and I just focus on being in the right place at the right time and executing my assignment. If I can do what I am supposed to do each play I can have a good game.”
A final aspect of being a dude? Acknowledging the reality of a situation, and vowing to make it better. In other words, showing no fear of the challenge.
“We didn’t execute well today. I think we can do a way better job,” Simmons summed up. “I’ve got faith in my team and my o-line, we’ll keep working in the weeks coming up to do better.”