After losing the starting quarterback job seven games into last season, senior Matt Simms is preparing his mind and body for another year of Tennessee football.
Though sophomore Tyler Bray sits atop the depth chart, Simms is ready to make his senior year his best yet. He is looking forward to the 2011 season and hopes to finish strong on and off the field.
“The main goal is really just to continue to improve and get better in the little things,” Simms said. “Just be ready when the time comes if I’m needed to play at any time next season and have fun and enjoy it and really just enjoy being with my teammates for one more year.”
Coach Derek Dooley said he and Simms have had a lot of conversations this offseason and Simms is in a good place on the team. The second-year coach said Simms has been an excellent leader and is proud of his work ethic and attitude.
“Matt has been phenomenal,” Dooley said. “He’s had a great attitude. He had one of the best offseasons of anybody on the team — he really did as far as his work ethic and his attitude. I’m proud of Matt. He’s handled (his spot on the depth chart) as well as any young man could handle given the high-profile nature of the position, the exposure of the school and his last name. I’ve just been proud of him.”
Simms has taken a leadership role on the team with his senior status, and he is excited to serve the team in this way. Sophomore running back Rajion Neal said Simms’ influence and help with the younger players and assistance with plays have been meaningful and shown his ability as a leader.
“Just with him being a veteran quarterback and having that in his blood, he’s been a real big help,” Neal said. “I feel he’s improved a lot. He’s definitely maturing and being more of a team player and helping us, guiding us and really being a leader.”
Simms said this of-season was not a time to relax and enjoy his final season as a Volunteer.
For Simms, transferring to UT after stops at El Camino Community College in California and Louisville, is not a decision he regrets. He said his experience here in Knoxville is something he wouldn’t trade and he is enjoying his time in the South.
“I can’t lie, I definitely like the Southern hospitality,” Simms said. “I love being here in the South and in Tennessee, and I’m just lucky enough to be here with a lot of great coaches and a lot of great individuals, and I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.”
Simms also wanted to honor his father, Super Bowl MVP quarterback Phil Simms.
“(Fans will) notice that I changed my number to 12,” Simms said. “I went from two to 12, and hopefully that’s a good change, and hopefully some of the fans like it. My father was No. 12 in college and this being my last year in college, I thought I’d wear No. 12 for him.”
Simms is looking forward to the upcoming season and hoping to get a little bit of playing time as well. Redemption is at hand as Simms looks at the schedule for next season and hopes to fix a few past wrongs.
“I really hope I get a chance to play against LSU, because they hurt my feelings so bad last time with everything that happened at the end of the game last year,” Simms said. “I would really enjoy getting out there and playing against them and talking a little smack.”