When Mountaineer wide receiver T.J Simmons signed with Alabama to be a part of the 2016 class at Alabama along with Jalen Hurts, neither would have ever guessed that three years later the two would face off against each other in a Big 12 conference game.
“Jalen and I go way back, so he will forever be my friend,” said Simmons. I have always wanted to see him succeed so I’m glad he had a good game, just hate it had to be against us,” said Simmons.
When the two were teammates at Alabama, and coached by Nick Saban, they learned from one of the greatest coaches of all time and took in some football wisdom that Simmons has carried into his time as a Mountaineer.
“I think I bring a business mindset (to the team). At Alabama, you had to know that it was always a ‘be ready’ and ‘next man up’ (mentality,”) said Simmons. “This game is really like a business, especially in the NFL. When you go to the NFL if you do something wrong, you either get fined or get cut. If you take that mentality into college, you’ll get prepared for the next level.”
Despite different paths through college football, Hurts and Simmons are both playing their best football during the 2019 season after transferring from the Crimson Tide football program.
After a somewhat slow start to the season for Simmons, he has found his stride for the Mountaineers using Saban’s “next man up” mentality.
While giving solid production during the 2018 season behind seniors David Sills and Gary Jennings, he has found his stride for the Mountaineers as the next man up and has turned heads with his consistent physical play this past month.
Simmons punctuated his strong month of October by finding the end zone for the third straight game, with two touchdowns against his former teammates Oklahoma Sooners.
In the last three games for the Mountaineers, Simmons has provided 284 receiving yards, with four touchdowns, and has been the spark on offense for a generally inexperienced and young receiving core, as a clear leader on the entire offensive unit.
As seen Saturday, Hurts is achieving an unparalleled level of success in 2019 with his own offense. Hurts has given Oklahoma its first 7-0 start in 15 years, and solidified himself as a Heisman frontrunner.
On the West Virginia side, the Mountaineers currently sit three wins away from bowl eligibility, and T.J Simmons will seemingly play a huge role in rallying the team to get there, and may help motivate some of the younger players to step up into their new roles after a flurry of injuries have kept multiple starters sidelined.