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Lafayette's Simmons coming off career-best performance
Kyle Simmons admitted on Tuesday that he was sometimes “a little bit more cautious” in live practice sessions, stopping short of colliding with an oncoming teammate — not out of a fear of getting hurt, but knowing that, in the past, most of his injuries have occurred in practice.
The senior free safety changed that line of thinking last week after being told that the Lafayette coaches had decided to replace him in the starting lineup with freshman Shane Black for the Leopards’ game with the University of Pennsylvania.
“It kind of ticked me off, being the competitor that I am and knowing that I’ve worked my butt off for four years, in season and out of season, in the summer, on the field, off the field, every way possible,” Simmons said.
Coach Frank Tavani said Simmons had been “struggling with some things … no matter who you are, senior or not, you have to perform or changes can be made.”
Simmons said he understood and respected the rationale, even if he may have disagreed with it. But he also decided that, “If I get hurt, I get hurt, it’s part of the game, so I have to prove to my coaches I can do it.” The result was what he called “probably my best week of practice since I’ve been at Lafayette.”
Black did start, and on Penn’s second series, he came up hard to make a tackle for a one-yard loss. He also took a hit to the head and had to leave the game.
Simmons took over and had the game of his career to date, intercepting two passes — he returned one for a touchdown and set up a TD with the other one — and making 15 total tackles to help Lafayette to a 37-12 win over the Quakers.
The 6-1, 200-pound Pittsburgh native received FCS national and Patriot League defensive player of the week honors for his performance.
“He’s a relentless competitor,” defensive coordinator John Loose said of Simmons. “He’s really smart. It seems that every time we push him or try to get somebody in front of him, he does something like this for whatever reason. He did a great job of pushing himself. When he plays well, he gives us a chance to win. He has the ability to do it all, and he doesn’t hang his head down. He’s a great kid.”
“I’m honored, but having one good game and the accolades I received doesn’t come even remotely close to adding up to a Patriot League championship for my team and my senior class,” Simmons said during the weekly media luncheon on the Lafayette campus. “By no means did we have a perfect game.”
Simmons gave a lot of credit to the play-calling of Loose for the opportunity to have a big game against a Penn team that would rather run than pass the football.
“It was a good game on my part and I’m proud of myself, but I’m looking forward to [Saturday night at Stony Brook]; last week is in the past already. Coach put me down in the box a lot to make those tackles near the line of scrimmage where in some games, I might be the post safety a lot where I’m not in position to make those tackles.”
It’s possible Simmons will have another chance to make plays on Saturday against the Seawolves, who also like to run the ball — they have 656 rushing yards in three games as compared to 376 yards passing.
In fact, one of his best games of 2010 was against Stony Brook; and that week, Simmons was slated to share playing time with another freshman. Simmons had two tackles for losses in the first defensive series and ended the day with six tackles and more playing time than he expected.
Simmons called Black “a tremendous player, a hard hitter, and he knows the defense well enough to get by. It’s a difficult defense to understand, so it was a tremendous honor on his part to be a starter as a true freshman. Credit to him.
“It makes me a lot better by competing for a job day in and day out. Regardless of how good or how bad you’ve been playing, you have to compete. Even as well as I did last week, if he was here, I’d still be competing for my job. Just because I had one good game doesn’t mean anything. We have to compete each and every week.” Black is not practicing because of the concussion he suffered against Penn.