Mississippi State defensive end Jeffery Simmons’ college career couldn’t have started any worse.
He was suspended one game before ever stepping foot on campus as a student. He was arguably the most hated player in the sport before participating in a single down.
That was earned.
Surely everyone is familiar with video of Jeffery Simmons repeatedly punching a woman who was involved in an altercation with his sister. That assault took place in March of 2016. Oh yeah, Simmons stands 6-foot-3 and weighs over 270 pounds. His victim was on the ground at the time of his attack.
While critiques of Simmons were earned then, he has now earned our applause.
Since that day, Simmons has not only stayed out of the news for negative reasons, he’s stayed in it for positive ones, a fact I was reminded of again Monday.
— MSU Football 🏈 (@HailStateFB) January 29, 2018
Student-athlete of the Week isn’t exactly comparable to a Nobel Prize, but it does remind us Simmons continues walking the straight and narrow. He continues making the most of the second chance he was given.
A second chance many – most – fans and media didn’t think he deserved.
Simmons, then-Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, and then-MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin were heaped with scorn when it was announced that Simmons would be suspended only one game after video of his attack went viral. The outrage went well beyond Mississippi or the SEC, all the way up to the national sports network and national news in general as another example of college sport’s broken system and win-at-all-costs mentality.
The odds against Jeffery Simmons becoming a model student-athlete were long, but that’s just what he is today.
Off the field, he’s a member of the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll. On the field, he’s a first-team all-conference performer on the defensive line. He’s been praised for his leadership. He hasn’t found a sniff of trouble.
While we applaud Simmons, we must also applaud Mullen and Stricklin. Despite the abuse they took at the time, Mullen and Stricklin were right to not throw this young man away in favor of scoring points on college football social media.
The few people who stood by this young man following his criminal mistake, promising us that wasn’t the real Jeffery Simmons we saw on YouTube, were right to do so, right to tell us that the Jeffery Simmons they knew for 17-years, was not the one we observed for 17 seconds.
I couldn’t be any happier for him.
Numerous young men and women, athletes or not, waste chances – second chances, third chances, fourth chances. Jeffery Simmons has not and for that he should be recognized. More young men will come to college football having bad histories, Simmons is proof to them all that those histories needed define their futures.
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
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