Each week between now and the beginning of fall camp, we’re going to bring you a player feature in Q&A style of a Newton County football alum who’s making strides in the college game now.
Our first featured athlete is Josh Sims, a former Eastside standout who starred as a wide receiver and defensive back for the Eagles before graduating with the 2017 class. Sims signed with FCS powerhouse James Madison, winner of the 2016 national championship and FCS runner-up last year.
Sims redshirted his freshman year, but has quickly worked his way into prime position to see substantial playing time for James Madison’s 2018 campaign which begins with a trip to NC State on September 1.
Sims chatted with sports editor Gabriel Stovall about everything from his rigorous college schedule to his prospects of seeing the field this season, and even how much he misses home and high school ball.
Stovall: Josh, with freshman year under your belt, and now your first spring football session as a collegiate player behind you, how would you describe the way things have gone this first year in college?
Sims: “Well, first off being this far away from home is obviously tough. I mean, I feel like I’m far away from everything I’ve known. So that’s taken time to get adjusted to. As far football on this level goes, It’s went from being kind of a one-season thing to a year-round type job. You’ve got workouts, study hall, and classes. Then you’ve got to find a way to eat and study and rest.
Everything got better for me as the year went on. At first I didn’t know when to eat or win to take a nap, but as the year went on I acclimated.”
Stovall: So what’s a typical day in the life of college football player Josh Sims like right now?
Sims: “It begins with morning workouts at 6 a.m., so I’m typically up by 5:20. Then after that is breakfast, and right after that it’s class, meetings, practice, dinner, study hall and repeat. I typically get out of study hall at about 9:30 p.m., so I try to get in the bed by about10:30, 10:45.”
Stovall: So no time for any wild, late night college partying for you, huh?
Sims: (Laughs) “Nope. The schedule is way too tight for that.”
Stovall: Given the uptick in rigor as far as workouts go, have you started to notice some major changes in your body? Are you bulking up?
Sims: “Honestly, I haven’t changed that much physically. I’ve gotten stronger. But mentally is where I’ve changed the most. The workouts have made me tougher mentally and just more tough all around.”
Stovall: Alright, so you go from pretty much a three, four year starter in high school, playing almost every down, to redshirting in college and seeing all the action from the sideline. That had to be tough for you, right?
Sims: “Man it was so tough. I mean, you leave high school with these high expectations of going in and working to get a starting job right away. But then when you get here, reality hits and you realize you’re competing against grown men who have already spent two and three years in a college weight room. Two and three years in a college playbook, and you just realize you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
“But even though redshirting sucked, a good thing that came out of having to watch others play is I got to sit back and learn from experienced players. Guys like (QB) Bryan Schor and (WR) John Miller. Being around those guys really helped slow things down for me.”
Stovall: Now that you’ve gotten through spring ball, do you have any indication of how much playing time you’re looking at this season?
Sims: “At the beginning of spring I was taking reps with the 2s primarily. But then one of the starters, Ezrah Archie, got injured, and after that I started running with the 1s, and ended up starting in the spring game.”
Stovall: And what was that first action on the college football field like?
Sims: “I mean I had nerves at first since it was my first experience on the football field in front of and since I got to the school. But then I just realized it’s the same guys I line up with the everyday at practice, so I just said to myself I needed to just go out and compete. And like always, those nerves are there until after that first play. And then it’s just going out and playing football from there. I only caught one pass for like 12 or 15 yards, but I think I did pretty good.”
Stovall: Do you miss playing high school ball?
Sims: “Oh, for sure. I miss playing with Eastside brothers a lot. I’d give anything to be able to go back out to Sharp Stadium and line up against Newton again.”
Stovall: What are your goals for the season?
Sims: “For sure, I definitely want to put on a little bit more weight and get stronger. I’m working on my footwork a lot this summer. I’ve already done a lot of work on it and it’s gotten better, but there’s always room to improve. Other than that, I’m going to study the playbook. In college you’ve gotta be able to read defenses on the run, know when the QB changes the play on the line and stuff like that. And really just get back to the natty and try to win another one. The way we lost in the championship game last year left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, so I just want to work with my brothers to get back there.”