MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Last season West Virginia’s wide receiving corps was led by David Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr. but both have graduated and moved on to the NFL. Now, the torch has been passed to a new group of wide outs and T.J. Simmons is ready take over the reigns.
“I just want to prove that I am a top guy in the country,” he said. “I want to prove that I’m a team guy, a good leader. We had two good receivers in the receiving room last year. Two older guys and now that they’re gone people are going to look to me and see how I can lead this next receiver group to be great. So I just want to be known as that guy who brought, like you said we don’t have any stars, I want to be known as that guy who pushed his team to become stars in the future.”
After learning from two of the country’s top receivers for two years, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound wide out has learned a tremendous amount that will help him emerge as a leader on and off the field.
“They taught me how to have a level head,” Simmons said. “They always had level heads and they knew how to put their head down and work. In the weight room, in conditioning, recovery, eating, everything, they just did everything right. They tried to do everything to the best of their abilities so they could be the best pair they could. And it definitely paid off.”
Even though his mentors have moved on, they are still guiding Simmons on how to become the best he can be.
“They are just telling me that it’s a business,” he said. “You got to work and it’s a lot on your own. Now they are telling me to start now. Start to do the extra stuff, do the little things now off the field so when you get to the league that you are used to it.”
As one of the older guys on the team, the Birmingham, Ala. native feels pretty confident in his abilities to perform on the field. Despite experiencing a coaching change over the winter, Simmons doesn’t feel the change will affect him tremendously because he’s had to learn several offenses before.
“When I was at Alabama, I had to go through two offenses,” he said. “So I came here and had to go through another offense and then another offense. It’s like I am used to sudden change but the two offenses compare a lot. Its just names, the way the plays are named. So it’s easy to be like ‘alright I know this play from last year. I’m just going to switch the names up and compare this play to this play’. It’s easy that when the offense it so similar.”
Having to sit out a year when he transferred to Morgantown benefited the redshirt junior.
“I benefited from it,” Simmons said. “I needed to learn a lot coming from Alabama to this place. I had a lot to learn still after my freshman year. I believe sitting down and actually soaking everything in and sitting back not having the pressure of playing but sitting back and learn from the coaches and learn tidbits from everybody that was here, that helped me a lot. It helped me develop more than I would have if I would have just jumped right in and just get out there and play.”
With two years under his belt with the Mountaineers, the Clay-Chalkville High School graduate feels he is in a position to lead WVU’s offense.
“I try to lead by example,” he said. “I try to hold everybody accountable while holding myself accountable. I preach that I’m not perfect. I’m not going to do everything right. I might not be in the right place at the right time sometimes. So I preach that if I’m in the wrong, you get on me so that when you’re in the wrong and I’m getting on you that it’s coming from in a good place. I just want everybody to be great and I try and preach that I want to be great and I want everybody around me to be great because I can’t be great without a supporting cast.”
With an inexperienced receiving group on the field for the Mountaineers, all eyes are going to be on Simmons.