MACON — Dominant.
One word just doesn’t seem like enough to describe the performance of Jeffery Simmons on Friday night.
If you think that is hyperbole, you evidently weren’t one of the more than 5,000 in attendance who witnessed the yeoman’s effort the Noxubee County High School senior defensive lineman delivered in a 26-20 double-overtime victory against Starkville in the season opener for both teams.
Maybe the numbers will do Simmons justice: 13 solo tackles (17 total), three tackles for loss, five sacks, five hurries, three pass deflections (with at least one going for an interception), a fumble recovery, and a blocked extra point.
“My goal is to leave everything on the field,” Simmons said. “I think I did that. Like I said early in the season, I am not going to take a game off or a practice off.”
For his accomplishments, Simmons is The Dispatch’s Prep Player of the Week.
“He played like Superman,” Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said. “He just wouldn’t let us lose the football game. Like you said, I thought he had a cape on, too, the way he played. He was all over the field.”
Shorter said Simmons deserves even more credit because he made the 10 other Tigers on defense better. One look at the team’s defensive stats and you get the sense everyone was motivated by Simmons to compete for the most tackles on the team. Senior middle linebacker Qendarrion Barnett (nine solo, 13 overall) came close, while Deveon Ball, Kalmorris Robinson, and Jimmy Morris had eight tackles and Jataquist Sherrod, L.C. Clemmons, Eddison Little, Miles Smith, and Jamarrius Bradford had seven.
Shorter said Simmons encouraged and pumped his teammates up before the game with a speech that even had him feeling like he wanted to take the field. Once the game started, Simmons was chasing ball carriers down from the other side of the field, hustling down field on special teams coverage, willing himself through blockers to block an extra point that would have given Starkville the lead late in the fourth quarter, and being part of a swarming defense that made two goal-line stands in overtime.
“I have been coaching football for 18 years and been around football for a long, long time, and I have never seen a defensive player dominate in so many areas the way he did,” Shorter said. “To watch him run plays down from behind and his pursuit angles, his football IQ is so high. He is a young man that left everything on the field.”
Simmons said he dedicated the game and the season to his nephews, Kaleb, Ke’Avion, and Keith Jr. He said his sister, Ashley Bradley, lost her three sons. She now has a 2-year-old daughter that is helping to keep her strong. In an effort to help his sister, Simmons tweeted on Aug. 10 that he is thinking about the boys and that he is supposed to be “training them to be legendary,” and that he wouldn’t let them down.
“It is going to be a big impact on her,” Simmons said.
That commitment to family is just part of the attitude that drives Simmons. He has put his recruiting on hold and opted to focus on helping Noxubee County make history as the school’s first football team to win back-to-back championships.
On Monday, Simmons, a four-star prospect who is being recruited by Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and many others, moved up to the No.1 player in the state of Mississippi in the 247Sports rankings. He also moved into Rivals.com’s national recruiting list at No. 56.
Simmons hopes his performance Friday night will show everyone how committed he is to the school and the football team.
“If I focus on my team, I am going to get the job done on the field and in school,” Simmons said. “I am just trying to be a leader to my team. I am still going to enjoy the process and put the recruiting to the side so my teammates will realize I am trying to be a team player and not being selfish.”
After helping the Tigers “protect their house,” Simmons will keep on making sure he and his teammates are ready every week. If it takes giving a speech to the defense or to the entire team, Simmons will do it because he is on a mission that started with an impressive first step Friday night.
If there is anyone who can produce another performance that outshines dominant, it is Simmons.
“Friday, if I can get those same stats, I might just do that,” Simmons said. “I am going to take it game by game and keep playing.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.