Fiesta Bowl Has Special Place For Sims

Ohio State senior offensive lineman and co-captain Rob Sims reflected on his previous trips to the Fiesta Bowl, including making a start as a true freshman in the national championship game in 2003. Click here for more.

The Fiesta Bowl has been good to senior Buckeye offensive lineman Rob Sims. Three trips in four years with two wins and a chance for another tomorrow is none too shabby.

The first of course was in 2002. With the national championship at stake and Sims just a true freshman, he was more than a little surprised to start.

"It happened so fast for me. My freshman year one thing they did was every time I was going to start they really didn't tell me. I just ran with the ones all week. They really didn't say anything. I would be asking, ‘Are you saying I am starting this week?' Ivan was always questionable or Shane was always questionable. I practiced the whole time with the ones for bowl practice. I had been running ones, twos, and threes all year. I didn't know. I walked out there, ‘Who is it going to be?' It was me."

His reaction was to be expected given the stakes. The Buckeyes were trying to win their first undisputed national title since the super sophomore class of 1968 led by Rex Kern.

"I was extremely nervous, but it was an exciting game," He said. "The way that bowl game worked out. It was crazy. It was over in the snap of the fingers even though it was three overtimes. It was a great game. It was indescribable really, but playing in that stadium will bring back a lot (of memories)."

His most vivid memory of that contest wasn't anything to celebrate, but it was more than a little humorous.

"I think I gave up a sack in double overtime. I can't remember his name, but I know it was number 55. I see him every time I go to sleep. It's crazy."

As he and the reporters shared a laugh he continued, "I've given up sacks in my career, but I can't let that one go. At that moment I was so young. I felt like I had lost the game. You look back on it now and say, ‘man, what if things hadn't turned around. What if they had gone the other way? I wouldn't be sitting here (talking about) ‘Rob Sims that freshman that started in the national title game'. I would be ‘Rob Sims who started in the championship game that ruined it."

Thankfully for Sims, matters did turn around. Jamal Green's sack (he was number 55) didn't lose the game, and the Buckeyes won in double overtime. They had a fiesta in Tempe, but Sims? He hit the sack instead of surrendering one.

"We were so drained and tired. We were excited for a little bit. Everything was cool, but I was exhausted. We kind of didn't realize what had happened. We knew what had happened, but it really didn't hit us until we got home. Everyone was real excited. Here it was like another game. It was over, we celebrated a little bit, had some hats – it was cool. You take a shower and got on the bus and headed back to the Princess (team hotel). The seniors were running around happy, but I was 18 years old, it was time to go to bed for me."

In Columbus people were getting out of bed, running around their neighborhoods in their boxers, and calling friends to share the moment.

"They said it was crazy. When we got back home it was even more intensified. The night life for the next week – no, I would say the next couple of months was really something to see."

"That game is one of the fine memories I have had as a Buckeye. I've had so many more. It's meant so much to me. It is really crazy how everything has unfolded – how life has unfolded playing in the Scarlet and Gray. I've seen it on instant classic a couple of times, and I can't even believe it's me out there. It's indescribable. Now that I'm older and moving on and things are not so much of a guarantee anymore. It's great to still have those memories. That's something I can always tell my kids or people can remember me by. That's such a great feeling to know you have been part of something so special."

But that game is not the only one that will be a wonderful memory for him. There are the Michigan games; he and his senior class have won three out of four.

"All the Michigan games," he answered to the question of his best memories. "This last Michigan game was huge. That was a big one. I still remember when Pitt scored I was on the ground and I just remember looking up and seeing him point that finger. That's a great one. I remember the Minnesota game when Pitt (Antonio Pittman) scored his first touchdown. I got my guy and that was a big block on the play. I remember looking up and seeing him split the safeties on his way down there."

While the Fiesta has been a party, being at Ohio State has been even better for Sims. With his last game only days away, he took the moment to look back.

"I don't know if you guys saw it but during senior day Troy was crying and in tears. I was crying in the skull session at my last game. That was a first. I couldn't believe I was crying in front of all those people. I'm sure this game will be just as emotional. We all came in together and had a goal. That was to win games, and we did it. We all care about each other and love each other so much. Even though we might get into fights here – this is a very unselfish team. This is my family. We go out there. We play together and have so much fun. I'm sure this is going to be emotional too."

The best part of all however is "just being in the locker room with the other guys. We are so close. Just being in the locker room talking about how we didn't want to put our pads on, talking about how we didn't want to go out there and run or didn't want to do this. Troy making jokes. Playing around. He's a comedian when he cuts loose. He has all kinds of jokes over there. We should put him on standup. Everybody just having fun and knowing how to have fun and not making it so serious before it doesn't need to be serious. That was important for this team when we came in. My senior class, to look at us you might think we are serious guys. We're not very serious at all, (but) when it is game day, it's game day."

Until then, there's only one more wish Sims that could make his Buckeye dreams all come true; scoring a touchdown as a tight end.

Sims confessed if he couldn't be an offensive lineman he wouldn't mind being a tight end; "You still get to block but you can catch a couple passes. I think I would be good out there right now. I got speed, I got talent – put me out there!"

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