Simmons in right place at right time
By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector
Friday, September 9, 2016
Travon Simmons played the role of Johnny-on-the-spot for the East Carolina football team against Western Carolina.
His perfect positioning prevented the Pirates from coughing up a score on the opening drive of the season. A deflected pass from Catamount quarterback Tyrie Adams seemed to dance around in the air for a moment above a couple of prone bodies before Simmons was there to put the clamps on it.
The ECU offense did its share after that, marching the other way for its first score of the season on the way to a 52-7 win. Although it was captured in the game’s earliest moments, Simmons’ pick drew praise from ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery, who said the play was vital in the Pirates’ win.
“It was really big, honestly,” said Simmons, the Pirates’ starting free safety. “Our coach always stresses that if we still have a blade of grass to defend, we defend that to the end. That’s what we did, and I’m really proud of the guys.”
As for the play itself, Simmons was quick to single out teammate and fellow defensive back Corey Seargent for making the initial play on the ball near the ECU 10-yard line.
As receiver Steffon Hill brought the ball into his chest, Seargent pulled the receiver down from behind and simultaneously popped the ball loose and into the air. ECU inside linebacker Jordan Williams took a swipe at the ball before Simmons snared it.
“Seargent made a play so I could make a play, so I benefited off that and I’m really blessed that he did that,” said Simmons, the top returning tackler in the ECU secondary after making 45 stops last year to go with a team-high nine pass breakups. “I saw (Seargent) knock the ball down and the guy re-catch it. But he kicked it up in the air and I was like, perfect time to go and grab the ball. And then I made a couple guys miss (tackles) so that was pretty cool.”
Simmons contended the defensive performance against WCU was critical for the unit’s confidence, especially given the complex offense the Catamounts run.
As expected, a sizable crew of inside linebackers traded repetitions in the opener, and with great success.
Montgomery, in fact, was still raving about their performance in the week building up to Saturday’s home showdown against N.C. State.
Starters Cam White and Pat Green regularly gave way to top reserves Williams and Ray Tillman, and also former safety Terrell Richardson. The quintet finished with 24 combined tackles.
“We were mentally prepared, physically prepared, and that’s what we do in the offseason and during fall camp, get prepared to do what we do best,” said Green, a junior.
Green was part of a serious competition at both inside LB positions throughout the offseason, and the season-opening win suggested there still isn’t much separating starters from reserves. The Winston-Salem native thinks that competition has fueled success.
He admits the competition is both fun and stressful.
“It’s football, and if you enjoy football you’re doing something you love every day,” Green said. “There is stress, like, ‘Did I mess up? Am I doing it right?’ They’re evaluating you and you don’t know if you’re doing good or bad, so you just go out there every day and work hard, get better from the mistakes you made the day before and just keep moving.”
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9595 or follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.