By JOEL COLEMAN
HOOVER, Ala. – When Dan Mullen took the stage on Tuesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days, it was only a matter of time before the storm came. The first question MSU’s eighth-year leader fielded was an easy one, the equivalent of a straight fastball hummed right down the middle, regarding the importance of wide receiver Fred Ross to MSU’s offense. Yet the thunder rumbling in the distance was the oncoming downpour of the Jeffery Simmons situation.
Before it was over, Mullen fielded five different questions regarding Simmons, the ultra-talented freshman that comes to campus toting the baggage of a March incident caught on video in which Simmons could be seen striking a woman multiple times. For his part, Mullen said most of the right things. He talked of making players better when they leave MSU than when they first arrived. He spoke of taking responsibility should Simmons, or any MSU players for that matter, find trouble.
Mullen’s answers were immediately, and predictably, picked apart. On social media, rival fans criticized Mullen. He was praised by many of the Bulldog faithful. Therein lies the problem with this whole Simmons mess. A large portion of folks voicing opinions continue to look at the issue through the lens of what should have happened instead of what reality now is.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit, if I was making the call, Simmons’ current status would most likely be different. While I admittedly haven’t put in the time and effort that athletic director Scott Stricklin and company did in investigating the matter, a one-game suspension and some counseling sessions seems pretty lenient to me to say the least.
Then again, who am I to say? I didn’t put in the hours to talk to Simmons’ former teachers and preachers and others and get a grasp of his personality. Did MSU go light on Simmons because he’s a five-star recruit that can sack the quarterback on Saturdays? Possibly. Did State hold back because the school genuinely feels the video of the Simmons incident wasn’t indicative of who he is and was instead a short blip on the radar screen of a promising future? That could very well be too.
The bottom line is, regardless of anyone’s thoughts or opinions on the subject, Jeffrey Simmons is now a Mississippi State Bulldog.
Simmons’ new teammates, linebacker Richie Brown and defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson both praised Simmons and his work ethic on Tuesday. Brown went so far as to say he has talked with Simmons and has seen he is apologetic and is working to prove wrong those who think less of him for his altercation.
If that’s the case (and if Brown says it, I believe him) good for Simmons. I’d venture to guess those seconds caught on video were Simmons at perhaps his lowest moment in life. I’d also imagine that if any of us had our worst moments recorded and broadcast to the public, we’d probably relate to Simmons’ current predicament a little bit better. That’s not to excuse Simmons. It’s just the reality. His mistake can now be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. What if that was the case for you or me?
I say all that to say this. The Jeffery Simmons situation is settled. He’s going to wear maroon and white this fall. People will debate in the weeks and months to come whether or not that’s a good idea. I for one am tired of all the debating.
The kid messed up. He messed up big time. No man should hit a woman. I’m not trying to excuse that. Perhaps the punishments should have been more harsh, but they weren’t.
So now, I propose this. How about instead of arguing over what should or shouldn’t have been done with Simmons, we all just pray and hope that he is on the road to becoming a better man.
That path has little to do with how many tackles he records.
With the madness that is college athletics, all of us sometimes lose sight of the fact that in the grand scheme of life, football just isn’t all that important. Simmons has been given a second chance. He’s extremely fortunate to have been afforded that opportunity.
This whole thing is no longer about Simmons’ past, it’s about his future. I, for one, hope he leaves Starkville in a few years as a man that can reflect on his mistakes and how he overcame them.
(Joel Coleman is the Mississippi State beat reporter for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the Starkville Daily News.)