The best way to describe it is simply: waiting. And that’s what Penn State defensive end Shane Simmons has been up to. Biding his time, waiting for the moment when his moment arrives.
“I think I will be a good leader this year,’’ Simmons said quietly during a Wednesday afternoon conference call with reporters.
“I think helping out a lot in the run game, too, and I think working on my pass rush and trusting myself again that anything is possible for me and you will see great things from me in the fall.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Simmons, a former four-star prospect out of Maryland who came to Penn State with high hopes. Instead he battled injuries, a redshirt season and a defensive line room not short on talent with NFL potential. For every step forward, Simmons had to fight through two steps back. Nothing came easy, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever does.
Making an appearance in 34 games since the 2016 season, he has one sack and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Not a bad start, but not how he saw things going either.
“I would describe it as overcoming adversity, for me,’’ Simmons said when asked about his career so far. “I started off as a, you know, huge recruit and stuff, high expectations … had a pretty good redshirt freshman year and then all that other stuff popped up.
“And I’ve been working and battling through all of that. It’s not what I planned but the story isn’t finished yet and I still believe that I can leave my mark at Penn State.”
The good news for Simmons is that Penn State has a long history of fifth-year seniors making a mark, even defensive ends. Former Nittany Lion Evan Schwan was a crucial key in Penn State’s defensive line during the 2016 season and made plays throughout his final run.
So maybe it hasn’t happened for Simmons yet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in 2020, and with Yetur Gross-Matos out of the picture and off to the NFL, there’s a new opening in the rotation that Simmons can call home. Of course, he'll have to battle it out with everyone else, but this might be a battle he can finally win his share of.
“It’s a really important year for me. First off, it was schooling, so I just graduated, so I got that degree out of the way. Now I can mainly focus on football, getting better and all of that stuff.’’