Simmons Sheds Light on Penn State Offer

The Sunshine State four-star running back is anxious to learn more about the Nittany Lions. But would he really consider playing in the North?

Like many Florida prospects, T.J. Simmons is still learning about Penn State. Now the Class of 2015 four-star running back has a chance to really get to know the Nittany Lions.

PSU assistant Stan Hixon recently offered a scholarship to the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder from Lakeland Christian.

"I was very excited and thrilled. I knew one day it was going to happen," Simmons said. "They've recruited me since late in my freshman season, and I've been hearing from them a good bit and starting a relationship with [Hixon]."

Simmons scampered for 1,111 yards and six touchdown for the 7-3 Vikings, who missed the playoffs due to a 2-3 record in their division. He also had six catches for 113 yards and a TD.

Most prospects might take the free time at the end of the season to visit college programs. But Simmons is instead reserving those trips for winter Junior Days or summer camps. He holds offers from Florida, Louisville, Miami, Ohio State, UCF and Wake Forrest, as well as the Lions.

"Coach Hixon always keeps a good eye on me, and tells me things I need to work on," Simmons said. "He tells me things I'm doing well at. He's a great coach and a great mentor in the football area. I could see him developing me.

"I'm still learning a lot about Penn State. I haven't learned a lot about what things they have to major in, or the certain programs they offer, but I most definitely would love to come up there [for a visit] to just get a chance to be around the coaches."

The junior hopes to major in marine biology, citing a longstanding interest in animals, and also said he hopes to run track in college. He's previously visited Clemson and Auburn, but has no other trips planned.

Asked if he'd consider going North, considering many Florida prospects prefer to stay in the state or nearby, he said it was certainly on the table.

"I wouldn't mind playing up North. Obviously, wherever I can get a chance at having a great coaching staff, and have the ability to get on the field as soon as possible, is somewhere I'd consider," Simmons said. "I'd love to play at Penn State, Ohio State or any of those schools up North."

The junior has spoken with PSU head coach Bill O'Brien, and is looking into attending one of the Lions' Advanced Skills Camps next summer. He's hoping various stops throughout the summer can continue his development as a running back.

"I improved in a lot of areas [this season] as a running back. I improved with my run blocking, shiftiness, and getting in and out of certain spots," Simmons said. "As a team, we did really well, even if we didn't make the playoffs."

Hixon and fellow PSU assistant Anthony Midget — both Florida natives — are leading a renewed push into the Sunshine State for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State will welcome William T. Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens) Class of 2014 safety Shawn Boone for the Nebraska game this weekend.

It has also shown interest in and/or offered a handful of other Florida 2015 prospects, including Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville) safety Ben Edwards, Tallahassee North Florida Christian receiver Christian Philpott, and American Heritage (Plantation) quarterback Torrance Gibson.

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