Help from dad

Some college quarterbacks chat frequently with the guy who taught them to play the position. Others chat frequently with their fathers.

Tennessee's Matt Simms chats with both. They happen to be the same person, Phil Simms.

Like Vol predecessor Peyton Manning, Matt Simms has a famous father who also played the game's most sensitive position. But, whereas Archie was very hands-off toward his son, Phil Simms is somewhat hands-on. That was evident last Saturday night. Walking off the field after a 50-0 Game 1 drubbing of UT Martin, Matt immediately sought out his dad for input.

"He told me a bunch of stuff," Matt said. "It's kind of hard to take it all in after the game because you're excited. He said he was proud of me, and he loved the atmosphere of the Volunteer crowd."

Phil Simms knows a thing or two about atmosphere. His older son, Tennessee Titans backup QB Chris Simms, played quarterback at the University of Texas. Still, the elder Simms thought Tennessee's atmosphere was special.

"He said it was unbelievable. He said it was better than Texas," Matt said, grinning smugly as he added: "I can't wait to rub that in to my brother a little bit."

It's no secret that the careers of several past UT quarterbacks were hindered - or at least complicated - by meddling dads and moms. Phil Simms isn't questioning the offensive scheme or the way his son is being used, however. He's just a typical parent desperate for information about the progress of his sons.

"He's always dissecting us every day," Matt recalled. "He even wants me to send him practice film and stuff. I tell him 'No, I can't. We're not allowed to.'"

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was glad to hear that, dryly noting: "Matt's well trained. That's good for Matt."

Simms did a solid job in his Vol debut, completing 14 of 24 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. He had no interceptions, no fumbled snaps, no sacks and just one delay-of-game penalty.

"I'm proud of the way I carried myself," he said. "But I definitely had a few mental mistakes, and that's something we need to correct very quickly."

Surprisingly, Simms says he was less nervous in his Vol debut than he was in his junior college debut last September for El Camino (Calif.) Community College.

"Maybe," he quipped, "it's because I knew if I didn't do well in junior college I'd be stuck there forever."

Regardless of the reason, Simms was as cool and crisp as a December morning in the huddle Saturday night. Teammates noticed.

"He did well. He was really calm," No. 1 tailback Tauren Poole recalled. "He didn't look rattled at all. He was smiling, telling us to keep it up, stay focused and stay poised throughout the whole game. We needed that because we are a young team. We need to hear somebody like that - a leader - in our huddle."

Perhaps Simms is feeling a little more nervous as he prepares for this Saturday night's showdown with seventh-ranked Oregon. If so, he might want to schedule some extra face-time with Phil, who is capable of providing technical support in addition to moral support. That would be OK with Derek Dooley. As a son of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, Derek knows that a football-savvy dad can be a positive resource.

"It can be a plus, it can be a negative," the Vol coach said. "It's no different than the Little League dads you go out and see. I have a lot of respect for Matt's father. I know him. I've appreciated how he's handled the whole situation. I've had one conversation with him when I got the job, and that was it. I think that says a lot; he's making it very clear he doesn't want to be Matt's quarterback coach or meddle in the situation, and I appreciate that.

"Every dad is probably coaching their son at some level. That's just how it is. The good news for Matt is that his dad actually played and has some pretty good knowledge."


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