Simmons camps and gets offer

For some the road back is too tough and they fade away. For Lakeland Christian 2015 running back T.J. Simmons a tear to his ACL early in the season in 2012 was tough, but not a life changing event. The injury meant he would have to work harder. The last two weeks all that has paid off as he added scholarship offers fro Miami and Florida.

As a freshman T.J. Simmons ran for over 1400 yards and 20 touchdowns, garnering the attention of major college coaches. Then as he was preparing for what he hoped to be a monster sophomore year, the wheels came off. In the season opener, Simmons tore his ACL and was done for the year.

Instead of sulking, he got to work. Saturday was just a small testament to the hard work he put in just nine months after surgery.

"I got offered yesterday… It went pretty good," Simmons said about his experience at Florida's camp. "After camp I went in a meeting with Coach Muschamp and Coach Pease and they basically sat down and talked to me about the recruiting process. They told me I was one of their top guys and I was very explosive and looked good coming off the ACL injury.

Simmons probably saw it coming to a certain extent. The Gators have been on him for quite a while.

"We have been in contact from my freshman year since I ran for 1,480 yards and 20 touchdowns," he said of the communication between he and Florida. "They were in contact with me and then the ACL thing came along. The process is still continuing."

Brian White coaches running backs at Florida and is always looking for speed in the backfield. Simmons says White likes his entire game.

"I came to camp, did pretty well and then got offered, Coach White was really pleased with how mentally and physically I have grown over the years," he said. "Most kids were mentally tired and with me preparing for the camp like I did. I showed that I could put the work ethic into it."

Simmons took to the coaching of White during the camp session.

"I think he's a great coach," he said. "I can definitely one day see myself playing for him. I love his attitude toward the game of football. He helped me out a lot and told me things that I needed to work on and things that I was doing right. He really encouraged me and gave me some things to work on to be a better athlete.

"One thing he said I was good at was my speed, I am very explosive. One thing I need to work on is my ball handling."

His road to recovery took a big step last week as well. He went to the Miami camp and impressed enough there that he was offered. It meant a lot to him.

"I was a big Miami fan," Simmons said. "My family has always been a Miami Hurricane family and I have been a Miami fan for as long as I can remember. They offered me when I went there and I was the fastest man at the camp and ran a 4.36. It was a great camp and a great program.

The first two of many offers, Simmons actually has more track scholarships than football. He says he ran a laser timed 10.8 in the 100 meters last year.

At 5-11 and 185 pounds, Simmons looks a little thicker than his weight demonstrates. .

"Coach White thought I weighed a lot more," he said laughing. "He thought I was over 200 pounds and told me I was all muscle. I definitely see myself playing running back in a pretty good offense. I am more of a downhill kind of a guy. I will be that guy you can call on at 3rd and 5 or 4th and 3."

Simmons and his teammates came to the camp via the coaching staff and namely Gator Great quarterback Wayne Peace. The early 80's star is a big influence on Simmons who says he is only interested in looking out for his players.

"Coach Peace is a great coach," he said. "He has definitely been a blessing in the recruiting process. Being a Gator alumnus, he has great connections at Florida. For Florida to be my first SEC offer is phenomenal."

Simmons and his teammates will be heading to UCF next week for camp. They are still weighing their options after that. He really doesn't have a list of favorites but knows that the Hurricanes and the Gators are near the top.

"It is definitely too early, but Florida is definitely one of your top schools along with Miami," he said.

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