COVINGTON, Ga. — At the beginning of the second week of spring football at Alcovy, Nicholas Simmons took a break from using his Twitter page to post the typical memes, videos and competitive rhetoric found on most high school student-athletes’ timelines.
Instead, he chose to express himself through the words of a verse from the Bible.
“Jeremiah 26:14,” his Twitter post began. “As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right.”
It’s a message from a biblical prophet named Jeremiah directed to God. A message of trust in a higher power for an unknown future.
Simmons said it was a fitting expression of how he felt at the moment. And who could blame him? In a year’s time he’s gone from virtual unknown reserve quarterback to a senior starter on a team breaking in a new offensive coordinator and a retooled scheme in a program still trying to prove it’s ready to win again.
“I put everything I do into God’s hands, and let him take me where he wants me to go,” Simmons said when asked about the reason for the divine interruption to his typical Twitter routine.
Despite some of the unknowns surrounding him — like how fast can he and a new Alcovy receiving corps adjust to the knew offense and find chemistry, or how thoroughly can he know and execute the scheme with just one more year — Simmons has approached preparation for the 2018 football season with unshakeable confidence and resolve.
In short, he’s acting like he’s been here before. And in some ways, he kinda has.
Simmons started the last 3 1/2 games for Alcovy behind center in relief of Cameron Anderson who went down with a season ending shoulder injury. In those games, Simmons completed 58 of 107 passes (54 percent) for 537 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
He showed a bit of a gunslinger’s mentality and quickly earned respect of coaches and teammates. And Alcovy head coach Chris Edgar says Simmons has only built upon that foundation during the offseason.
“He had an incredible offseason,” Edgar said. “He spent just time and time and time with coach (Damoio’n) Wright looking at film, talking about the new playbook that Wright’s put in. In the weight room, he’s been a leader. He’s never skipped reps. Always encouraging others. He’s gained the team’s respect. He got it from them last season, but there’s no doubt now that this team will go to war behind him.”
Simmons says he knows that much more will be required of him this year as a full time starter at the most high profile position on the football field, but he’s ready for that leadership role and all it entails. That’s where the bible verse comes in.
“My freshman year was the first time I came across that verse,” Simmons said. “I was reading an article about (former Florida Gators and Denver Broncos quarterback) Tim Tebow and that was in the article, and it just followed me ever since. He is a hero on and off the field to me with his walk with God.”
Edgar said he’s clearly seen the uptick in Simmons’ overall maturation and his willingness to do whatever it takes to grab the trust of his teammates.
“We have this thing called the man-up period,” Edgar said, “and one particularly day after Simmons and those guys had a gruelish workout where they were already burned out and their legs were jello, they had to do 100-yard lunges with the weights over their head. Nick was the first one in line.
“That’s the kind of leadership he’s taken. He’s embraced it. He knows that that position requires a lot. And he knows that when things don’t go well offensively, people are going to be pointing the finger at him. But he’s up for the challenge.”
Simmons has also shown himself a bit of a fiery competitor. In Alcovy’s Thursday night scrimmage against Woodland, Simmons sulked a bit on the sideline after Edgar pulled his starters while Woodland left much of its first team in.
The coaches were trying to convince Simmons that was only a spring game and that there were no season implications to be had from it. Simmons wasn’t trying to hear it though.
“It’s still a football game that we can win,” he said while on the sidelines late in the third quarter.
Alcovy lead 6-3 at halftime when it was good-on-good, but lost 20-6 after the reserves came in and thunderstorms halted action at the 5:24 mark of the fourth quarter. Simmons said he wasn’t particularly pleased with his performance in that game, but is still optimistic for what the summer can bring in terms of development.
“We’ve definitely got a lot of work to do, but it’s going good,” Simmons said. “The main thing we as a team have to work on is the chemistry on the offensive side. I had to build the chemistry with the wide receivers and get used to throwing to them because the ones from last year all graduated.”
Simmons said he’s already improved in some areas, though, noting he “surprised myself” with the increase of his arm strength.
“I’ve also become a lot better reading a defense and putting the run-pass option in our offense,” he added.
Simmons made a few solid plays against Woodland where he tucked the ball and ran. He had a couple of good balls in the passing game, as well as some he probably would like to have back — like a sure touchdown to a streaking Adrian Robinson that was just overthrown.
But Simmons said he’s more than pleased with the new offense and has lofty goals in it, namely 2,500 passing yards, 250 rushing yards and 30-plus touchdowns.
“(Coach Wright) added a little swag to it, and that makes a big difference,” he said. “We had to care about what we were running for it to be good. You look good and feel good in the offense, you will play good. Wright knows the game very well and he can help me and help us pick a defense apart.”
Now with spring ball behind him and a couple of weeks to rest before summer workouts and 7v7s begin, Simmons and company are excited to see what 2018 brings.
The non-region schedule will be brutal, as the Tigers will open with its first regular season game against in-county rival Newton in five years, followed by matchups with Class AAAAAAA Rockdale, Eastside and a highly regarded Salem team, before traveling to South Georgia power Colquitt County.
Edgar said all of that is by design, in hopes that by the time Alcovy opens Region 3-AAAAAA play at Grovetown on October 5, his team, along with his quarterback, will be battle tested and primed to win its first region game since 2015.
“We had our most grueling offseason we’ve had here, and it was for the purpose of getting ourselves ready for spring football,” Edgar said. “We said that spring football was the official start of the 2018 season, and from here on out — hopefully until late fall — we’ll be pushing for 2018 success.”
That’s where Simmons mind is, despite not achieving the desired outcome on the scoreboard in last week’s spring football finale.
“We know from that game we got a lot to work on,” Simmons said. “But it’s just a minor setback for a major comeback.”