For Simmons, the time off waiting for his academic clearance was a challenge. But the good-natured 6-7 299 lineman kept his spirits high and is now reaping the rewards of hard work.
"Patience is a virtue," Simmons said laughing. "I just had to chill. Just stay humble and stay focused. It was tough. I mostly just did math homework. I had to focus on that and get that out of there."
Simmons' arrival was made doubly as important with the heavy losses the Sun Devils have sustained on the offensive line. Guard Zach Schlink suffered a number of debilitating knee injuries before calling it quits this offseason, as did Matt Hustad. Former starting left tackle John Hargis has been held out practice all year, although he could return as early as October. But even with the injuries, Simmons says the offensive line is a tight knit group and that every guy is putting in the time to improve.
"Everyone is doing good," Simmons noted. "That's what you expect out of your teammates. They're putting in hard work and it's motivating. When you're out by yourself, you're not getting better. Everyone is doing it together and we're getting better."
Running back Cameron Marshall can attest to the offensive line's improvement. The sophomore rushed for over 100 yards and put the ball in the end zone three times in the opener against Portland State. Oh, and he did it all on only four carries.
Simmons played in the game and drew praise from Coach Erickson.
"I thought he played awfully good for his first time," Erickson said. "We'll see how he continues to improve."
But Simmons still isn't logging starting minutes. Missing camp undoubtedly stunted the dually talented tackle's career at ASU, but it seems like only a matter of time before Simmons finds a home somewhere amongst the starting five.
"(Playing in my first NCAA game) was cool," Simmons remarked. "Technically, not where I want to be. But it was cool getting on the field. Almost everything is different. Play calls, speed of the game, just everything is different. I'm still getting my feet wet and getting comfortable."
Being where Simmons is now on the depth chart is no small accomplishment. Any player missing camp is missing valuable hours of practice every single day and to catch up and push for playing time immediately is a testament to how talented and hard working Simmons is. However, the monolithic tackle is quick to attribute his success to coaching.
"A lot of great help," Simmons commented. "Coach Smith and other guys chipping in and giving me hints here and there. I'm still getting a better understanding of it and putting together my head. Being out here every day at practice is really helping and its all starting to soak in."
So far, Simmons has spent time working at both left and right tackle. With Dan Knapp playing well all summer and putting in countless hours in the offseason, the junior tight end convert has earned his position at starting left tackle. Brice Schwab is another massive body that was originally committed to USC and is playing well on the right side. For now, the former El Camino standout is working at right tackle, but it doesn't seem to matter to Simmons where he will line up.
"Coach Smith told me on my trip that I'd be playing both sides on the line because if you want to get to the NFL you have to be versatile," Simmons noted. "He never said anything about going back to left tackle yet, so I'm just focused on getting my technique down and being comfortable so if I do have to go back, I'll be ready."