P.J. Simmons is a shifty running back / slot receiver at Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby High School. Some college programs see him in different places, he says he could play on either side of the ball.
“I want to play running back in college, but I wouldn’t mind playing safety,” Simmons said after his visit to Florida on Saturday. “Most colleges want me as an athlete, and some want me as a running back. Now (at Godby) I play running back and slot.”
The Gators are ambivalent at the moment.
“Florida says they want to use me where I would fit in, they are telling me running back or slot, one or the other.” Simmons said.
Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers recruits the Tallahassee area for the Gators. Just on the job for a few weeks, Simmons has already gotten to know Summers a little and relates to him.
“He just talked about the program and how they will be getting back on their feet and how they should have a strong team growing up,” Simmons said of Summers during his visit to Gainesville. “He is a really good guy.”
Simmons loved the trip. It may have been a little surprising just how well it went.
“It was a top notch visit,” he said. “It was the best one I have been on so far. I have been on quite a few, but this is at the top. It was just the love that the coaches showed. They were so passionate about everything they were talking about. That is how I knew it was real.”
The staff likes what they see out of Simmons.
“I can do it all,” he said. “I can go with the ball in my hands. I can hit the hole. Use my speed, I can catch. It’s hard to say what my best attribute is. Because, at any given time, I can take it all the way (to a score). Coaches say I am very elusive and my change of direction is very good.”
As mentioned, Simmons tripped to Gainesville with his father Anthony Simmons Sr. The two are almost glued to the hip.
“Every step of the way, he is there,” P.J. said of his father. “He’s my number one fan. My dad and I have conversations about football all the time. Since I was little I can remember him dropping me off and watching every practice from middle school to high school. He hasn’t missed a practice or a game since I started playing. That is why I want to make him proud. He plays a major role in y college decision. He will follow me, wherever I decide to go.”
Mom cares as well, but she doesn’t get into all of the intricacies of college sports so she is staying clear of everything right now.
“My mom is there, but women don’t know sports and recruiting like that,” Simmons said with a laugh. “My dad has been through recruiting. He played at Prairie View University in Texas.”
P.J. is actually Anthony Simmons Jr., so how did he get the nickname P.J.” It seems dad’s nickname is Pokey, so P.J. is Pokey Jr.
It seems that Pokey Sr, was surprisingly high on what Florida showed this weekend as well.
“He is a Florida State fan, and this is how I really knew that Florida had something good going on… my dad is a die-hard FSU fan, but on that visit, you wouldn’t be able to tell that,” P.J. said. “That’s how I can tell that anywhere I go I have his support. You know Gators and Seminoles don’t mix too well, but he went down there and you would think he was a Gator fan.
A self-reported Alabama fan, P.J. says that is out the window now. After Saturday, he has a new program he really likes.
“I personally want to be a Gator,” he said. “They told me they would love to have me. My brother (and teammate) Jaylin Hayward and I went up there and they said they would love to have us.”
In the end, with scholarship offers lined up, P.J. Simmons says his choice in schools will be made from a few criteria.
“It will be about tradition,” he said. “I will my take my family’s advice on it. I don’t want to go too far away, but I don’t want to stay home either. The coaches are another major factor.”
And wherever that school is, dad will be right there with him.