Oct. 21, 2011
An unselfish touch of Simmons
By David Boyce
The act by Northwest Missouri State junior running back Jordan Simmons was so unselfish that coach Adam Dorrel still talks about it eight weeks into the season.
Simmon’s act could have another huge payoff in Saturday afternoon Homecoming game when No. 6 Northwest takes on No. 3 Washburn at Bearcat Stadium.
Sophomore running back James Franklin figures to play an important role for the Bearcats as they attempt to hand Washburn its first loss.
Two weeks ago, Franklin came up big for Northwest when he rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns in a come-from-behind 38-20 victory in front of over 14,000 fans at Central Missouri.
Simmons played a part in convincing Franklin to come to Northwest after Nebraska-Omaha disbanded its football program last spring.
“When I called him I told him I’m not concerned about my touches as a ball carrier,” Simmons said. “I told him I play slot receiver. I do punt returns and kickoff returns so I wasn’t really worried about my touches as a running back.
“I wanted him to be a key factor in our offense and help the team get better. That’s the type of player that I am. I’m a very unselfish player. I try to do what is best for the team instead of worrying about something like touches.”
When you think about a lot of top-notched running backs, you hear players who believe they are the best and should carry the ball 25 to 30 times. They say they need the touches to find a rhythm in a game.
That’s not in Simmons’ make-up.
“It means he is unselfish and a great teammate and, for me, it solidifies his belief in Northwest Missouri State and what we are trying to do here. I’m very, very proud of him for that fact.”
Simmons and Franklin make a formidable duo, and they might be the best running back combo in the MIAA. Franklin has rushed for 563 yards and 11 touchdowns in 91 carries and Simmons has 485 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 65 carries.
The Bearcats, 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the MIAA, will need big games from them and the entire team to come away with a victory over Washburn.
The Ichabods are 7-0 and 5-0 and brought the most experienced team in the MIAA into this season.
For those reasons and more, Dorrel says with a straight face that Northwest is going into the game as the underdogs.
When was the last time anybody suggested the Bearcats were not favored in a MIAA game?
“Yes, I do believe we are the underdog,” Dorrel said. “I’m going by the statistics. They are ranked ahead of us. They do not have a conference loss. They are a really good football team.”
Simmons is buying it. He has played in enough of these games to know it is going to be a tough battle with the Ichabods. Last year Northwest escaped with a 41-40 win at Washburn and in 2009, Northwest won 22-19 at Bearcat Stadium. It was also Homecoming like this year.
“I’m with coach 100 percent,” Simmons said. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. They are ranked higher in the nation. They are coming into a tough environment trying to get a win.
“It’s always a great atmosphere when we play Washburn at home, and Homecoming adds that much bigger of an environment. It will be a big game for everybody. I look forward to it.”
Simmons said the Bearcats have grown as a team since losing 38-35 to Pittsburg State on Oct. 1.
In that game, Northwest completely dominated the first quarter and quickly jumped to a 21-0 lead.
But in the second half, the Bearcats had a hard time stopping the momentum of Pittsburg State.
“We worked on our composure in big games,” Simmons said. “The UCM game really showed that. We had to settle down and finish. It is one thing we didn’t do against Pittsburg State. We had a lead on them at halftime and we didn’t finish the deal.”
Saturday’s contest will be the Bearcats’ third significant game in October.
“This is what I signed for,” Simmons said. “I knew Northwest was known for playing in big games.”
One of the main reasons why the Bearcats have played in so many important games over the years is because they recruit players like Simmons who are willing to sacrifice personal glory for the betterment of the team.
The win at Central Missouri was a perfect example of it. Franklin was one of the stars in that game. Simmons enjoyed watching Franklin excel.
“It makes me feel good,” Simmons said. “I had a vision and once you see that vision come together on the field, it makes you feel great.”
Simmons, though, remains a vital part of Northwest’s success. On this year’s team, he is almost irreplaceable because he does so much.
“You can line him up in slot and obviously at running back,” Dorrel said. “He’s capable of doing so much that he almost makes it difficult when you are game planning because you want to utilize him, but you don’t want to overuse him.
“He’s grown as a football player and gotten better, but he’s grown as a person. He enjoys going to class. It’s great to see the grade reports we get. He’s a nice young man, teachers will put on there. He participates in class. It tells me he’s bought in fully in what we are doing here.”
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