The “9-5 thing” was not for Central’s JaMarko Simmons, he will play in AFL

February 24, 2011

Western Michigan's Jamarko Simmons, left, catches a pass in front of Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher during the second half of their college football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Western Michigan won 28-19.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — The odds of earning a spot on a pro football roster seemed to be slim and none for JaMarko Simmons.

For four months, he worked tirelessly at the Security Packaging company on South Dort Highway trying to pay his bills as well as provide for his two-year-old son, Jaylen.

Simmons’ days as a All-American wide receiver starring on Western Michigan University’s football team were a distant memory. Instead of catching passes he “provided exceptional packaging products” to the company’s valued customers.

“I was seeing how this 9-5 thing was and it wasn’t for me,” Simmons said. “It was definitely a wake up call.”

Things quickly changed with one conversation in mid-October. The Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League needed a physical wideout and offered Simmons a spot on the team. Without thinking, Simmons accepted.

“I was real excited about it,” Simmons said. “I got a second chance at it (and) a second chance at everything as injury free and really being able to show my talents.”

At WMU, Simmons was a four-year starter and became the first receiver in the program’s history to catch more than 100 passes in a season. He also broke the record for career receptions (260), passing Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings in the process.

After graduating in 2008, Simmons signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent but was hampered by a herniated disc in his back and didn’t make the final cut. The New Orleans Saints granted him another tryout but this would fall through. He then had plans on playing in the UFL but a fracture in his foot put his career at a standstill.

For a player who had never dealt with any major injuries all throughout his college tenure, Simmons often found himself frustrated and emotionally damaged. Being injured reminded him just how much he loved the game. When things seemed to be falling apart, he decided to rededicate himself to the sport.

He reached out to his former high school track coach at Flint Central, Carlos Benton, to help get back to the basics.

Simmons trained with Benton at Grand Blanc high school for close to two months before heading off to Jacksonville for the start of training camp with the Sharks last weekend. They met up for four sessions per week, which lasted nearly three hours to work on his flexibility, quickness, speed, cardio and agility. Simmons also participated in his own weight lifting regimen on top of their encounters.

Benton was highly impressed with the drive of his young protege.

“When we first started working out he wasn’t in shape but had the work ethics of it but as we’ve been working out he’s been getting very comfortable,” said Benton, who is now the girls cross country coach at Grand Blanc. “I can see the maturity from high school to college and I would be very shocked if he didn’t make it.”

Before he can make it back to the NFL, Simmons believes he has to crawl before he walks and this opportunity may be a stepping stone for the next level.

“I’m going to give it all I got. I still got a whole lot in the tank, a whole lot to give and it’s just one day at a time,” Simmons said. “My ultimate goal is to make it back to the league in 2011-2012 (and) hopefully it’s not a lockout and I can show what I got.”

While his sights may be set on the NFL, Simmons has to emerge as a star in the AFL first.

The rookie will get his chance when the Sharks take on the Arizona Rattlers on March 12 to kick off their five-month season.

“He better be very serious because if he’s not then he’s not going to make it,” Jacksonville Sharks head coach, Les Moss said. “These guys in this league are very good football players and he’s gonna be challenged every bit as much as he’s been challenged anywhere he’s been.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: