On Saturday, at his fiancee's home in west Lee County, Simmons got one of the best presents of his life when he was selected in the first round of the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He admits that he really expected to hear his name called in round two.
"You just don't what is going to happen," he says. "It is just like waking up and you think you know what your parents have bought you and you open it and it is like, "Oh, my God. I can't believe I got this.' It is like a childhood dream. I always wanted to be there (the NFL) and that I am there I just have to make the best of the situation."
On Saturday, Simmons became the first Auburn football player selected in the opening round of the National Football League draft since 1998 when a pair of Tigers were picked. Simmons, an offensive tackle and guard for the Tigers, was selected as the 30th pick of the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.
In 1998, Auburn stars Takeo Spikes and Victor Riley were first round picks. Spikes, a linebacker, was the 13th overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Kansas City Chiefs selected Riley, an offensive lineman, with the 27th pick.
Wide receiver Tim Carter was also drafted on Saturday. The speedster was the 14th pick of the second round and the 46th overall selection. He was taken by the New York Giants. Carter watched the draft from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla., with his parents and brothers. Carter said that he expected to be picked by either the Giants or Jacksonville.
"My agent (Pat Dye, Jr.) was right on the mark on where I would be taken in the draft and which team it might be," Carter said on Saturday. "I am pleased with where I was picked and I am excited about playing for the Giants."
Tim Carter's speed made him a high draft choice.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville told Inside the Auburn Tigers on Saturday that he is thrilled for Simmons. "If there is anybody deserving to go in the first round, it is Kendall with all he has gone through with his two ankle surgeries and all of the hard work to come back from those. He has definitely improved and will make an excellent pro player as a guard or tackle."
Simmons is scheduled to report to Pittsburgh on Thursday for several days of orientation. He watched the draft on Saturday at the home of Celesta Henry, who he plans to marry on July 13th. A large crowd of family and friends were there to enjoy the moment. Simmons has been working out on the Auburn campus and says he will continue to do that until training camp starts.
"I really happy and I am glad the way things went," says Simmons, who notes that he had no idea going into the draft that Pittsburgh would select him. He did not do any special workouts for the Steelers and assumed Pittsburgh was not interested. "When they called me, that was when my heart kind of stopped for about the whole 15 minutes they kept me on the phone."
Simmons says he is pleased to have been drafted by one of the better teams in the NFL. "To me, I think that is very important. I am glad I have got a chance to play for a team that is going to have a chance to contend for the Super Bowl just about every year and at least make it to the playoffs. I am happy to be blocking for Jerome Bettis and Kordell Stewart and all of those other guys that are on such a physical offensive line."
As a senior, Simmons was a first team All-SEC pick and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the Southeastern Conference's top blocker. He was an ironman for the Tigers last fall, starting every contest and going the distance at left tackle in every regular season game.
Simmons was also an All-SEC selection as a junior, one season after having surgery on both ankles and receiving a medical hardship redshirt. In 1998 as a sophomore he started five games at guard while battling ankle and knee problems. He started 11 of 13 games as a true freshman guard and even played fullback in short yardage situations.
Simmons was signed out of Ripley, Miss., High School, where he was a three-year starter and a PrepStar All-American.
Mike Pucillo hopes to go in the fifth to sixth round.
Another Auburn offensive lineman, Mike Pucillo, is expected to be drafted in the later rounds.
This article will be updated this evening with comments from Simmons.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Tommy Tuberville says he thinks Simmons is best suited to play guard in the NFL. Simmons himself says he doesn't care if it is center, guard or tackle. "One thing that they said that made me feel good is that I am a versatile player," Simmons says. "That kind of gives me an indication that they are going to try me at several spots."...Simmons says that he is very glad that he returned to Auburn for his redshirt senior season. "If I had left the last year or the year before last, that would have probably been the worst mistake I probably ever made in my entire life."