COVINGTON, Ga. — On Wednesday February 6 at 2:30 p.m., Nick Simmons will officially end his recruiting journey when the Alcovy quarterback signs a scholarship letter of intent to play at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
This past Tuesday he took to Twitter and made the announcement that provided him great relief, but also gave him an assurance of playing football at the next level — an assurance that didn’t always accompany him through a topsy-turvy senior season.
“It felt real good to make this commitment,” Simmons said. “There were times I was thinking I wasn’t going to make it, but I gave it to God and that’s what made the difference.”
Simmons’ journey began with optimism as the 6-foot, 160-pound Simmons came out of a fairly successful junior season where he took over starting quarterback duties after Cam Anderson went down with a season-ending injury.
Simmons completed 54 percept of his passes for 537 yards while throwing for seven touchdowns and three interceptions for the Tigers. He almost led a comeback for the ages that year when Alcovy hosted Heritage-Conyers.
It didn’t take long for him to develop the reputation of being a bit of a swashbuckling gunslinger type of player. Not the biggest, not the strongest. Not the biggest arm. But Simmons seemed to have a knack for making plays. And former Alcovy head coach, Chris Edgar repeatedly lauded him for his toughness.
Naturally as a result, the 2018 season seemed to belong to him. Anderson had transferred and there was really no other player on the roster with varsity quarterbacking experience. Simmons seemingly won the trust of his teammates and displayed the attitude of a leader.
But as the season came closer, difficulties emerged. Alcovy struggled to get untracked offensively with a new coordinator. Simmons and a new corps of young, unproven receivers found it tough to build chemistry.
Then injuries came to Adrian Robinson, one of the Tigers’ top playmakers on either side of the ball. Then coaching drama as Edgar dismissed former offensive coordinator, Damoio’n Wright. Simmons spent basically the entire season going back and forth with transfer signal caller, Jaelen Campbell, neither finding much success.
The combined passing game numbers in 2018: 600 total passing yards between both quarterbacks. A 41 percent completion rate, 13 interceptions and zero — yes, zero — touchdown passes.
To top it all off, Simmons sustained an injury to his arm just when it seemed like the staff was set with settling on Simmons to finish the season. And although his numbers weren’t impressive, there were times when it seemed Alcovy’s best movement offensively came when he was behind center.
So it may have been a bit of a surprise for him when, despite all that, offers started coming in. Simmons narrowed it down to Clarke and Culver-Stockton, and chose Clarke because the school, he said, stuck with him and showed interest even despite the difficulties.
“They’d followed me on Twitter and seen my film,” he said. “They asked for my transcripts and then they offered me. With coach (Adam) Hicks), I built a relationship. It’s a new program, but it’s in a good area with a big emphasis on competing and building a solid program, and that’s one thing I was looking at. I want to just go up there and help them build something.”
Simmons said the staff was able to contextualize some of Simmons’ difficulties, stats wise, and he said he was still being recruited as a quarterback. But he doesn’t mind doing something different if it means getting on the field and helping the team win.
“Of course quarterback is what I like, but I’ll look at myself and they’ll look at me and wherever I can fit, it’ll be good,” he said.
Simmons has a 2.8 GPA and is looking to major in Sports Management. He felt Clarke can get him where he wants to go academically as well. But the biggest thing for him regarding this milestone really had nothing to do with him at all.
Eight years ago, Simmons’ father died in a motorcycle accident. He’s carried that pain with him over the years, and acknowledges that the memory of his father and the desire to make his family proud pushed him even through the toughest moments.
“It definitely means a lot all of us,” he said. “With my dad’s situation, you know, I looked up to him. I just think about him saying that I’m making him proud of the things I’m doing. I always know he’s in my heart and I believe he’s looking down over me and protecting me.”
Simmons said the focus now is on living in the weight room.
“I’m working with coach Zach Davis who’s now the one working as quarterback coach, and I’m staying in the weight room a lot so I can work on getting faster, stronger and bigger,” he said.
He’s already lifted enough mental and emotional weights of adversity to feel he’s strong enough to take on whatever college has in store.
“All that adversity, it taught me never to give up on something you love,” he said. “The highlight of my time here at Alcovy, despite everything, was just being with my boys, my brothers, and fighting with them. And if I could say anything to anyone coming behind, it’s just to keep fighting. Don’t let anything get in the way or stop you from what you’re dreaming of doing.”