Sims shining on App State defense


Tyler Hotz

Entering the season, the Mountaineers knew they could have one of the best pass rushes in the Sun Belt Conference, but few would predict who would be sitting atop the stat sheet in sacks.

Even though defensive lineman Tee Sims, a redshirt junior from Covington, Georgia, made his first start a few weeks ago in a 24-0 win over UL Lafayette, he leads the Apps with six sacks this season. Sims’s impressive play also puts him second in the Sun Belt Conference in sacks, just behind senior defensive end Randy Allen from South Alabama.

Starting his career at Georgia Military College, Sims played everything from running back as a freshman to becoming a defensive standout his sophomore season. During his sophomore campaign, Sims led Georgia Military with 21 tackles for loss, and was also tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries and forced fumbles.

Attending Georgia Military, it was his goal to play Division-I football, and with support from everyone around him, he was able to make his dream come true, accepting a scholarship to play for the Mountaineers.

“I’m telling you, when I was younger, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it but they [his mother and grandmother] kept me motivated, and I kept working hard and offers came in and App State showed me love so that’s why I came here,” Sims said. “I ended up here and they have treated me like family.”

As soon as Sims arrived as a junior, he was given an opportunity to get some in-game experience, including recording five stops against Howard. Sims, however, would only get to play in four games due to an Achilles injury.

Luckily, Sims was able to take an injury redshirt, and is listed as a redshirt junior this season. Even though Sims was injured, Sims said his teammates and people around him kept telling him “not to let the injury phase him,” which is exactly what Sims did.

“People kept telling me if I would complain about the injury then it would slow me down, so I knew I had to keep the mentality that my leg was fixed and that there was nothing wrong with it so I could [try to] go hard every play,” Sims said.

After missing spring practices, Sims was able to come in healthy for practice over the summer. With months of preparation, Sims learned the defense and got plenty of reps to have a breakout season.

Kicking off an impressive 2016 campaign, Sims recorded a sack on the road at Tennessee and from there he just continued to create havoc in the backfield. Sims followed up that performance with two sacks at home against Old Dominion and then two weeks later he recorded two more sacks on the road against Akron.

Finally, in a mid-week conference matchup at UL Lafayette, Sims got his number called in the starting lineup for the first time as a Mountaineer. Fittingly, Sims added another sack to his stat sheet, helping the Mountaineers sack the Ragin’ Cajuns five times.

“One thing that you can’t teach is extremely good get-off; he is very explosive and his first step is very quick,” defensive line coach Mike Ivey said. “As an offensive lineman, it makes life really tough when that guy in front of you can move faster than you can move.”

Starting for a Division-I team has been a long journey for Sims, but he knew that it was an avenue he was going to take in order to be successful.

“When I was at GMC, that was your goal was to make it to somewhere big time in D-I football,” Sims said. “Once the D-I offers started rolling in, I felt finally like I was getting recognized for the D-I talent I thought I had.”

Coming from a small town like Covington, Sims was told early on that he would have to play either baseball or football because his mother told him that he “wasn’t going to end up in the streets.” With his uncles serving as examples before him, Sims chose football as his path towards a better life.

Dominating on the football field at Eastside High School, Sims was named Georgia Region 8-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year his senior season, even after missing two-and-a-half games.

Eastside High School has produced its fair share of college standouts, but one player and friend that Sims remembers from his high school days is Sheldon Rankins, a defensive tackle who played his college football at Louisville and ended up going in the first round of the NFL Draft this past year.

“I know some people who have come out and made it to the league [the NFL], and they were a year ahead of me so they signed D-I and I knew I could do it too,” Sims said. “They paved the path for me and worked me harder and kept telling me to keep my head on straight, so I have to thank them.”

Sims also has made many close friends at App State, most notably with fellow junior defensive lineman Caleb Fuller.

“Our practices aren’t very easy so we have to come together and find a way to get through it, and a majority of the time it is through the bond that we have with each other,” Fuller said. “You hear us yelling and screaming and it gets our blood flowing and gets us energized to find ways to get better throughout the course of the year.”

With his hard work and patience, Sims has cemented his role as a starter on the App State defense. Looking forward, he looks to help lead the Mountaineers to further dominance on the defensive side of the ball.

With five games remaining and a Sun Belt title on the line, Sims and the whole defensive line know they have to bring their best from “the junkyard” to the football field.

Story By: Tyler Hotz, Sports Reporter