Up Close with Ernie Sims

The last thing on the mind of North Florida Christian standout Ernie Sims right now is the recruiting process. Instead, the talented running back/linebacker is trying to bulk up for the start of the season and recover from knee surgery. "I weighed 217 at the NIKE Camp a few weeks ago and now I'm right around 225," Sims said. "I'm trying to get to 235 for the start of the season."

The following is an example of a members-only story offered by TheInsiders.com. Mike Bakas covers recruiting and the Miami Hurricanes for CanesTime.com

Ernie Sims' daily routine doesn't change much. And that's by design. Pass by North Florida Christian's weight room -- say every afternoon during the week -- and you will see Sims striving to gain strength and weight.

"At 4 PM, I lift weights every day," Sims told me. "I'm not running much, but I'm trying to bulk up. I weighed 217 at the NIKE Camp a few weeks ago and now I'm right around 225. I'm trying to get to 235 for the start of the season. By the time I start college, who knows, I might be 250 pounds. I know I can maintain my speed (4.50 at NIKE)."

Sims also is on the mend. According to his father, Sims tore his MCL in the spring jamboree last month. He is now rehabbing and should be ready to go in about a month or so. Sims had his knee scoped last Monday. Right now, he is wearing a brace and lifting weights. Sims is not allowed to run until the doctors give him the go-ahead. As far as his weight is concerned, Sims hasn't seen a whole lot of growth since his freshman year.

"I played my freshman year around 210," he said. "Then I was about 215 as a sophomore. I weighed 214 the day of our state championship game last season and this year I want to be 235."

Sims actually ran into a problem several years ago regarding his weight.

"My second year of pee wee ball, they said I was too heavy so I had to play with a bunch of 15 year olds when I was only 11," he said. "That really helped me. I was the fastest kid out there and I was running people over. My first year when I was 10, it was me, Kolby [Smith] and Gavin [Dickey] playing together. We had a lot of fun."

Sims, who was measured at 5-foot-11 at NIKE, has also run track throughout his prep career. "I ran a 10.79 as a ninth grader," he said. "That's when I was about 200 pounds and that's my best time in the 100. I used to run with Antonio Cromartie. We went to school together here when I was in 9th grade."

Now, Sims and Cromartie are two of the state's top prospects.

Inside the classroom, Sims is already fully qualified with a 2.7 GPA and an 18 ACT score.

"Everyone in my top 10 has sent me a scholarship offer in the mail," he said.

The 10 schools Sims has narrowed things down to are Miami, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Oregon, and Auburn. He declines to name a favorite and said none of the schools have the lead right now.

"I'm definitely wide open and keeping my options open at this time," he said. "I plan on waiting until signing day to announce my decision so I'll have time to take some trips after the season."

The talented linebacker has taken several unofficial visits recently, including one to each of the three in-state powers.

"I went to Florida and had a lot of fun," he said. "I liked the facilities there and I liked the coaches. I love Ron Zook, he's a real nice guy. I also talked to Earnest Graham. They walked me around the campus and showed me the academics and stuff. I see an opportunity for early playing time on either side of the ball at Florida."

"I went to Miami for spring break," he said. "It was great. I liked that down south atmosphere. I really liked the environment at Miami and I also like the colors. I met with Coach Coker and I think he's a great man. They have a great thing going there and I look forward to seeing what they can do this year. I had the chance to watch one of their practices and I came away very impressed. They're very intense and very loud. The defense was very loud and hitting hard and the running backs were all running hard. They're very competitive, but at the same time they have a lot of respect for each other. That's the way all the Florida schools are it seems."

Sims has been to unofficial trips to Florida State on more than one occasion, primarily because Sims lives not too far from campus. "Florida State doesn't offer my undergraduate major (veterinarian medicine) but they have a great football program. I'm pretty good friends with [defensive lineman] Travis Johnson. I'm also friends with Claudius Osei, Matt Heinz, Kendyll Pope, a lot of those guys."

Sims goes both ways for NFC, and talked about where the in-state schools like him.

"Florida State wants me as a linebacker," he said. "Miami said either side, and Florida said either side too."

Sims said he is being recruited by UM linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves.

He also talked about the types of things he'll be looking for in choosing a school on signing day.

"I'm going to look hard to academics," he said. "That's real important to me. I'm going to have to like the environment, I'm going to look at the opportunity for playing time at my position, and I will have to get along with the coaches."

Sims, who grew up close friends with current Florida wide receiver Taylor Jacobs, said he's undecided about summer camp plans.

"I'm working a lot this summer and then I'm also working out with my teammates a lot," he said. "I might go to Southern Cal's camp, I might go to Georgia's camp. I might go to Miami's camp. I just don't know for sure yet."

When asked about his goals for this coming season, Sims started thinking about the record books.

"I definitely want to break the city record for tackles in a season," he said. "I think it's 210. I finished with 197 last season so I want to work real hard in getting at least 210 this year. As a running back, I am not aiming for any amount of yardage because I know I probably won't rush for 2,000 yards or anything like that, so I just want to improve my skills and become a better back this year."

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