Super 16: Dreadnaughts' Defense Will Follow Its Leader
Sun. August 19, 2012 at 2:06 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
T.J. Simmons is expected to be a force in the middle of Lakeland's defense. (Photo by MICHAEL WILSON | THE LEDGER )
By HASANI HARPER | LEDGER CORRESPONDENT
LAKELAND | In 2010, T.J. Simmons was a new face on a young Lakeland team. Just a sophomore then, Simmons' youth and inexperience was evident.
"I didn't react as quickly as I probably should have because I was not used to the varsity playing speed," Simmons said.
Dreadnaughts defensive coordinator Jason Butler agreed.
"He was all over the place," Butler said. "He had the potential, but he just made the mistakes that all the young kids make."
Fast-forward to now and Simmons has become one of the unquestioned leaders of the Dreadnaughts' defense this season — and a PolkPreps.com Super 16 selection.
"He has grown tremendously since his sophomore year," Butler said. "His work ethic and willingness to get better is probably the best I have been around. He dropped a lot of weight and picked up some speed. It has helped him mature into a really good linebacker."
That maturity was evident in the spring game against Lakewood at Bryant Stadium. Simmons displayed good strength as he plowed through a lineman to block a field goal. He also showed better reaction time in determining whether a play was a run or pass.
"I'm a more experienced football player," Simmons said. "I read plays better, and I've improved my pass coverage."
Simmons' growth as a player has not gone unnoticed by college programs.
Simmons lists offers from Indiana, Iowa State, Western Kentucky and Toledo.
During the summer, he committed to Western Kentucky but has since backed off that commitment.
"I plan on enrolling early to whatever school I end up deciding to go to when I finish high school," Simmons said. "My time to pick a college is short, and I want to make sure that I make the best decision for me."