Alex Simms was at the perfect place for an offensive lineman to find out he’d made the South Carolina Shrine Bowl roster: the Chicken Shack.
“I went to lunch with my mom, and my dad called us, and he’s always on the forums for the Spartanburg newspaper, and he’s like, ‘your name came up for the Shrine Bowl. I don’t know if it’s legit or not.’ ”
Turns out, it was.
“I was in the middle of eating at the restaurant and I was like, ‘YES!’ Everybody was looking at me.”
He explained to the lunch crowd he’d just made the Shrine Bowl and they duly gave him a standing ovation.
“It’s gonna be a great experience,” Simms said Monday, while icing down before practice. “My family is very proud and I’m very excited about it.”
Simms, a senior left guard at South Pointe, has been one of the pumping pistons behind a Stallions’ run game that averages close to 200 yards per contest and has the defending Class AAA state champs a perfect 8-0 and ranked second in the state in Class AAAA. He’s also the school’s sixth Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas participant.
Simms is imposing at 6-foot-4 and about 320 pounds. High school teams generally position their largest linemen on the edges, but putting Simms’ girth on the interior of the Stallions’ line meshes with offensive coordinator Justin Hardin’s trapping and pulling rushing attack.
“He’s the biggest player on our team but the thing that’s impressive about him is how well he moves,” said Hardin, who is in his second year at South Pointe.
In the Stallions’ effective power run game, Simms is often required to move laterally along the offensive line in pulling situations, making his mobility and his size a punishing combination. The cadence is sounded, the ball snaps and like a bullwhip, Simms takes off against the grain of the play. The crack of the whip’s tip? Simms popping a wide-eyed defender on the weakside.
“He just clears holes,” said fellow senior offensive lineman Dakota Mozingo. “(South Pointe’s backs) can squeeze right through them holes; there’s no stopping that.”
Simms, Mozingo and Armon Lindsay give the Stallions three seniors on the interior, while Colton Hunter, Spencer Strong and DaMorris Jackson have increased South Pointe’s depth up front. All six contributed last year, while two-year starters Simms, Mozingo and Lindsay have only lost one of their last 24 games.
“I feel like the offensive line we’ve got this year is probably by far one of the best in the state,” said Mozingo, who plays center. “We’ve got a lot of depth and having Alex beside me just makes for a better offensive line.”
Indeed, after serving as a sophomore backup and cracking the starting lineup for last year’s state title run, Simms has emerged as a full-throated team leader this year. He won a ring last year, but there’s ample room on his hand for another.
“He’s stepped up,” said Hardin. “After losing some of those seniors last year, he’s been more vocal.”
This is usually the portion of the story to trot out a series of gaudy statistics. But like many schools, South Pointe doesn’t keep official figures for the offensive line. The Stallions’ road graders have to live vicariously through the stats and headlines of the skill position players.
“We don’t get as much reputation or looks as far as scouts go,” Simms noted, “but when we have good plays and make the other guys look good, it’s kind of an internal pride thing.”
Simms is a natural fit for the selfless task of blocking. He’s demonstrated a propensity to think about others, a byproduct of active participation in the Mormon faith with his family, as well as Boy Scouts. Simms’ Eagle Scout project had him erect a veteran’s monument at the local VFW chapter.
“He’s big in his church,” said Herron. “He’s just a good all-around kid that you’d want to hang around with.”
Simms ideally would like to go to Brigham Young to play football. So far, he’s gotten interest from Football Championship Subdivision schools like Wofford, Youngstown State and Charlotte.
“I think the Shrine Bowl’s gonna be good for him so he can kind of showcase who he is and what’s he about,” said Herron.
That includes helping others, something the game’s organizers pride themselves on. The Shrine Bowl has raised over $70 million since its inception in the late 1930’s, and it’s that same selflessness that’s providing the only real wrinkle in Simms’ college football recruitment.
A recent change within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lowered the minimum age for the two-year mission to 18, enabling Simms to embark on the mission trip as soon as he graduates high school. Then he can return to whichever school he chooses for four (or five) uninterrupted years.
It’s important to be clear though: he doesn’t have to go, he wants to.
“The mission is the priority right now,” Simms said, adding that he’s still actively talking with college recruiters, who are understanding of his faith commitment and largely still interested.
“The thing they like to see is the maturity level afterward,” he said. “So most scholarships come after; you kind of sew the seeds and reap after you get back.”
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T