Bulldog defensive lineman talks about a victorious freshman year on and off of the field.

He has a season in the books, and all-conference status to his credit. Finally, now as his first Mississippi State spring camp is underway, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is free to meet with media. With no punches pulled, nor dodges done.

How is spring going the first few days? “Pretty good. I’m glad to be back out there, getting after it.”


What is it like putting the pads on again, is it real football? ‘Oh yeah. Like Coach Mullen said, really just a real day of football. I mean we have been going hard but actually going through it…”


How would you evaluate your first season? “Coach Mullen always says be critical of yourself. I got a lot to work on this off-season. I had ups and downs, some games technique-wise. I did pretty good, so far.”


What are some things you did that you liked? “My explosion. Just using my strength, because I was pretty strong. And going against the other guys. So just using my strength.”


Were you surprised you could make the transition so quickly? “A little bit. But it was kind of hard playing the end spot in high school, then had to come inside playing nose, going against 600 pounds at one time. So I really had to use my strength.”


The leaders of last year’s line group is gone. How quick does it turn for you having to step up? “Coach Baker, he’s preached that a lot. Because us four guys, we’re coming back the only guys who got to experience. He’s put a lot into it. When the season was over with Coach Bake called me, it was like ‘Jeffery I need you this off-season, you’re one of the guys that’s coming back that actually played’. He felt like I had a leadership role, he put it in my hands like I need you to lead.”


You have a lot of newcomers, it’s kind of a rebuilt line. What have you done to help guys prepare for life in the SEC? “Especially with the nose guys, I tell Lee Autry just go. He kind of thinks too much, I’m like just go, be you. Just you explode, come off the ball. Because the new guys that came in, they’re going to be pretty good for us.”


Is it strange a guy your age is already telling guys your age or older what to do, being a leader? “I mean, I just use it. Like Coach Mullen says sometimes you have to lead, sometimes you have to follow. So I feel like I’m one of the guys that can lead. That’s what I’m going to do.”


Do you remember the day coach said you were going to play last fall? “Basically I knew kind of when I came in. With the depth they had at nose guard, really just Nick James right there. You’re going to have to come in and play.”


After the off-the-field stuff how hard was it for you last year? “Basically I just used the help of my teammates, everybody around this University just to help me. I just say I thank Coach Mullen, he was one of my leaders to help me, talk to me, everything will be good. Just focus on football.”


Was it difficult to block it all out? “I mean, I did what I had to do on and off the field. Just focus. That was the thing, and put it in God’s hands.”


How remorseful are you over what happened? “Like I said, live and learn. If I could go back and re-do it all I could do it over again. But just, you know, don’t do what I did. Like I said, live and learn. So I regret doing it, but live and learn from it.”


Coach Baker said a challenge was you learning how to play at 300 pounds? “Oh, I mean, I came off the two ankle surgeries and off-season coming into Mississippi State. It kind of set me back with my weight, that’s kind of why I got moved inside!

“It was challenging. One time I got up to like 317, and it was kind of hard you know. From 275 to 317, it was a big jump.”


Was there a point in the season you figured out you could handle this SEC stuff? “I was just ready to go. My first game, a SEC game with South Carolina. And once I made my first play in, I made a tackle for loss. I was like let’s go, just go.”


What was it like playing beside Marquiss Spencer? “He can definitely play. I had a chance to play against him in high school, matter of fact it was back-to-back two years straight in North State. And I knew he was a good pass rusher playing against us. Pretty good. The coming-up season, he’s going to be pretty good.”


You were highly recruited, what made you choose Mississippi State and how happy are you? “I came in, I was talking about the family atmosphere. I love it. I feel at home here. Even though I’m right down the road, like I said it feels like home here. I don’t regret my decision.”


Another guy from down the road, Kobe Jones, what have you seen from him? “Kobe, everything he does with relentless effort. He’s a guy that’s going to give it his all, even if he’s in the wrong. But Kobe is going to be a big help for us because that’s the type energy we need on the field.”


Your new coordinator preaches aggression, fast, physical? “That’s something we want to hear. With the defense we’re running, that should be our type of style. Just go, get off the ball.”


When the incident evolved, when you did you say wow this is a huge mistake? “Basically, early. I told a guy I mean, during the time I didn’t really know I did that. When I actually watched the video I kind of had a mental breakdown of dang, this can’t be true.

“Like I said, I gave it to God.”


Were you surprised the suspension was just one game? “I mean, I met the athletic director at the time (Scott) Stricklin. And I was with him. Because it was his decision. The first thing is, they let me into the program. So it wasn’t no sense in me trying to fight what they had with the suspension. So I went with it.”

“It was basically always on me; Jeffery you need to do this, you need to do this, Jeffery handle your business. I did what I had to do on and off the field. This first semester I mean, with my GPA, I had a 4.0. I was focused on and off the field. I was worried about school, and football.”


Were you more proud of the GPA or the freshman recognition? “Basically, the school. Because school comes first. With them looking at me off one incident, I feel like I came in and stayed focused in the classroom. And its kind of had people to be quiet, like this guy really bought his business.”


Are you still 4.0 this spring? “Oh yeah. I’m on it. So I’m trying to stay with it. “


Are you grateful to have a second chance? “Yeah, I give it all to God. I thank Coach Mullen, the foundation up here. The University, Mr. (Mark) Keenum the president. I’m just grateful for the opportunity."

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