Preseason Chat: Tyler Simmons

Navy enters 2010 with plenty of question marks on defense, including the health of inside linebacker Tyler Simmons. After sitting out spring ball with a spleen injury, Simmons is back on board for Navy this summer, and ready to take his place as the unit's senior member.

It was a productive year for Tyler Simmons in 2009. A backup for both Ross Pospisil and Tony Haberer, the 6-foot-3 Oklahoma native nevertheless finished third on the team in total tackles, and distinguished himself in multiple games. As the unit's lone returning member with any significant experience for 2010, Simmons will be called upon to set the tone for the unit, and to carry on the tradition of hard-nosed play that Navy linebackers have established under Buddy Green. I caught up with the senior inside ‘backer recently, and got the scoop on his recovery from an offseason skiing accident, as well as his plans to enter the Marine Corps following his time in Annapolis.

Adam Nettina: How has the summer been going for you? What have you been up to on and off the field?

Tyler Simmons: Summer started out well. A few guys and I went down to Camp Lejeune, and we hung out with a marine infantry group for a while just going over some basic stuff. We went out into the field with them for awhile and learned a little bit of what it was like to be a marine. After two weeks we came back and a few days later lifting started. So we've just been lifting and running – getting ready for the season and putting some weight back on. The last month or so I've had class, so it's been a busy summer, but it's been productive and a good one.

Adam Nettina: You were absent from spring ball after suffering a pretty serious spleen injury in a skiing accident during the offseason. What exactly happened?

Tyler Simmons: Me and about ten other players went up to Whitetail, Pennsylvania. We were skiing and snowboarding and just basically being stupid with trying stuff that we're not near good enough to do. I wanted to see if I could go down this hill as fast as I could without turning and it ended up biting me in the butt. I hit a mogul and I went down onto my ski poll and my ski poll broke a couple of my ribs and cut up my spleen pretty badly. I went to the hospital that night. (The doctors) cut off the blood flow to my spleen a couple days later and I spent a few weeks in the hospital. I actually just got cleared the other day and I'm cleared for the season. I had to sit out of spring ball but other than that it hasn't really been that much of a hassle…

Adam Nettina: So your completely healed now?

Tyler Simmons: Yes sir. (I'm) 100%. I feel better now than I did before it happened.

Adam Nettina: I had no idea the injury was so serious. Not to dramatize things, but was there a time in which the doctors thought it might be career, or eve life-threatening?

Tyler Simmons: To be honest, I think it was blown out of proportion. (Doctors) rate (spleen injuries) on a scale of one to four, and mine was like a low three. They said it was bad, but it wasn't horrible. They said if I would have waited a couple more days than it definitely would have been a lot more serious, but I went in that night. No one was panicking – I'll put it that way. They were like, ‘yea, we need to take care of it now, but don't freak out.'

So far as sitting me out for awhile, they said it was just something I had to do to give it time to heal. There was a lot of internal bleeding and they wanted to let it scare over before I did anything. It was more precautionary. It wasn't anything to lose sleep over, but it wasn't a great situation either.

They wanted to wait it out and see. There were a couple of days where they weren't really sure how bad it was, and they said I might have to miss a few games. But my body reacted really well to it. I was very fortunate. Even up until like a month ago they had me missing the first couple of games, but I went to Bethesda (Naval Hospital) yesterday and they cleared me.

Adam Nettina: Do you think you learned anything from the entire experience?

Tyler Simmons: Absolutely. First and foremost: how much I love the game. During spring camp all your boys are out there getting rowdy and hitting people, and you're just kind of sitting back. That's not really something I ever had to do before. Even as a freshman – I mean I didn't get much playing time – but I was able to get in on the drills. So you learn how much you love being around and being active in (the game). Another thing I learned was just how hard my team works. I guess when you're out there you don't really get to see it, but when you're out on the sidelines you're just like ‘damn, these guys are working their (butts) off right now.' It's just impressive, but at the same time you just wish you could be out there with them. You realize how much you lose when you're out. It was a disappointing spring, but in the end it worked out well. We have a bunch of new guys at linebacker, and they all got a lot of reps. I think it was all meant for a reason.

Adam Nettina: What's it like being a part of such an experienced group of linebackers last year to now being the only player with significant experience in the unit this year? Are you worried at all about how the unit responds after losing essentially four starters?

Tyler Simmons: I'm not worried, (but) I've been put in a way different situation than I was in last year. Last year I was in the mix but everybody knew who the leaders in the linebacker corps were. They had a firm foundation, and I was just kind of coming in to make sure they didn't get tired. This year I'm definitely the most experienced (linebacker), but the guys that we have coming up, I have more confidence than ever in them. Trey (Grissom), Caleb (King), Max (Blue)…I don't have a bit of doubt that when they're on the field with me they're going to cover their gaps and I'm going to cover mine. I know that they're going to go all out no matter what. They are some of the hardest workers I've ever been around. Even with the younger guys, they have motors like no other. They're making me tired. They are always like ‘hey man, can we go watch some film today.' They are out there making plays on the field like everyone else, so I'm not worried at all. We've got a good group of guys and they work harder than anybody I know.

Adam Nettina: Is that a motivating factor for you after missing the spring? That is, does the play of the younger guys spur you to work that much harder to retain your starting spot?

Tyler Simmons: Oh yea. I by no means have a starting position. It's neck and neck with a bunch of guys. I love it, because it kind of lights a fire under me. It lets me know that I have a job to do and I have to do it well or else I'm going to be passed up. It's definitely inspiring me.

Adam Nettina: What has the recovery process from the spleen injury been like?

Tyler Simmons: For awhile there I'd go to the gym and couldn't really do anything. For the first week of (4th Quarters) they wouldn't even let me get out of bed. They wanted me to get my rest and sleep in which was really frustrating to me. For awhile there it was just a no-go on everything – for like a month and a half. Then I slowly progressed into it. I had a limit on how much weight I could lift. I couldn't do sprints -- I could just do light jobs. But I saw a plus in it because it let my body rest. I've never gone into a summer before where I'm not beat up from spring ball. I weigh more now than I have ever, and it's good weight. I think my body is rested, and on top of that, I haven't hit anybody since the Missouri game. I'm ready to get out there and get after it.

Adam Nettina: So I'm guessing waterskiing wasn't on your summer ‘to-do' list?

Tyler Simmons: I'm done with all my extracurriculars until football season is over (laughs).

Adam Nettina: What's next for you after graduation?

Tyler Simmons:I'm set on marine corps ground. It's definitely my first choice. I honestly don't even know what I'd put after that. It's kind of what I've always wanted to do since I got here.

Adam Nettina: Really? So have you always wanted to go into the Academy and more specifically, the Marine Corps?

Tyler Simmons: I hate to say it, but growing up I always wanted to go to West Point. I was recruited by them and almost signed, but then I decided I needed to see what else was out there. I went to the Naval Academy on my visit and just fell in love. The guys here are like no other, and you can't question their winning tradition in football. There is just something special about Navy. On top of that, a lot of my friends went into the Marine Corps out of high school and have been over to Iraq and Afghanistan several times, and there is just something about them which is special. It drove me in the Marine Corps direction.

Adam Nettina: Sounds a lot like the Navy brotherhood. Is that an attracting factor for you?

Tyler Simmons: Yes. I got to experience it first hand when I went to Camp Lejeune. They know everything they're doing to a tee, and they are constantly looking out for each other. It reminds me so much of being out on the football field. It's the same kind of brotherhood, and it's amazing.

Adam Nettina: Are there a lot of players right now looking at going into the Marine Corps after graduation?

Tyler Simmons: I can think of like ten players off the top of my head who want it. A lot of my closest buddies want to go. We kind of have the same mentality. I know a lot of them who want to go marine air, but there are quite a few (football players interested in the Marine Corps).

Adam Nettina is a writer for GoMids.com and the sports editor of the Utah Statesman. You can follow him online at twitter.com/AdamNettina

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