Irish building bonds with top Michigan athlete

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Antjuan Simmons has adjusted to life as a highly recruited prospect. Dozens of programs have already offered the junior athlete and Notre Dame is among those firmly in the mix.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Antjuan Simmons is coming to terms with his new normal.

Few hours go by without the junior athlete receiving a new direct message. College coaches are consistently flowing through the halls of Pioneer High School, located across the street from Michigan Stadium, to continue expressing their interest.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer made the trek into rival territory last week. Same goes for James Franklin at Penn State along with several others. Brian Kelly has plans to do the same. He sent defensive line coach and area recruiter Keith Gilmore to Pioneer last week.

“You’re getting a lot of attention from people,” Simmons said. “But you still need to work hard and remain focused and stuff. It’s real humbling. Not many get the opportunity that I have, so I’ve just got to take advantage of it.”

All those programs have already offered scholarships. Arizona State, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, UCLA, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin are some other programs to also offer.

Simmons has made regional visits. Michigan State played host again on Saturday when the Spartans basketball team faced Florida. He’s also seen Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Notre Dame hosted Simmons for camp last summer and again for the Massachusetts game during the season, days after he received his Irish offer. Gilmore and running backs coach Autry Denson have been doing their best to keep up communication since.

“Those relationships are growing,” Simmons said. “I talk to coach Denson like every day and I talk to coach Gilmore on a weekly basis. Coach Denson is the guy I really talk to. Coach Kelly hits me up every now and then. He’s a head coach so he’s not going to be sending me DMs every day. But he hits me up about once a week just to check up on me and see how I’m doing.”

Getting back to campus is something Simmons hopes to do in short order. Last time around the 6-foot-1, 205-pound prospect was struck by program history.

“I’m real big on tradition and playing for something,” Simmons said. “Uphold something, that’s real big with me. I don’t wanna just go somewhere where you’re just winning and that’s it. They’ve been winning since they started football at Notre Dame. There’s really something to play for there. When you get done it’s not you just played college football. You played for Notre Dame. People are like, ‘Wow.’

“It’s pretty insane. I’m talking to like seven-plus coaches a day whether it’s a motivational quote or just checking in on me to see how I’m doing, those type of things.”

Whatever program gets Simmons on campus next, it’s not likely to get a commitment any time soon.

Simmons might be starting to mentally narrow down the list, but he plans to let the process play out over the ensuing months. He’s targeted a date during his senior season to reveal a verbal commitment.

“I want to try to shut down the whole process by October or so of my senior year,” Simmons said. “My senior night, my last home game here, would be perfect. But we have a lot of guys in our program my year and a year under me that could play Division I football. If those guys aren’t getting enough looks, I wouldn’t mind holding out an extra month or two to really keep the college coaches coming in here.”


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