TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Dec. 11) –Florida A&M University (FAMU) presented Tallahassee area native Willie Simmons as the 18th full-time head coach in the history of the school’s storied program Tuesday morning at the Al Lawson Center.
Simmons was welcomed by university officials, alumni, boosters and media, along with a strong contingent of family, friends, former coaches, former high school teammates and others from the Quicny and Gadsden County community.
A phenomenal prep athlete at nearby Quincy (Fla.) James Shanks High School, before embarking on a stellar collegiate football playing career that featured stints at Clemson University and The Citadel (S.C.), Simmons comes to Florida A&M from Prairie View A&M (Tex.) University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), where he spent the last three seasons (2015-17) as head football coach.
SIMMONS’ COACHING RESUME
During his tenure at Prairie View A&M, Simmons revived the flagging fortunes of the Panthers, elevating them to prime contender status in the rugged SWAC Western Division, which featured perennial Black College heavyweights, Grambling State and Southern University.
Simmons fashioned a 21-11 overall worksheet, and a 19-6 league record, highlighted by an 8-2 debut campaign in 2015, which included an 8-1 runnerup finish in the Division to eventual division champion Grambling State, after dropping a sizzling 70-54 wild west shootout in the State Fair Classic in Dallas, Texas.
In 2015, the Panthers were the highest-scoring Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team in the nation in 2015, averaging 44.9 points per game. The Panthers scored at 38 points or more nine times, including three 40-point games, and four 50-point games. PVAMU also led the SWAC total offense (487.5 ypg/6th NCAA), passing offense (278.0 ypg/15th NCAA), passing efficiency (152.0/10th NCAA), and ranked second in rushing offense (206.5 ypg/21st NCAA).
Considered one of the most creative and innovative offensive minds in the collegiate game today, Simmons took the Prairie View job in December of 2015, after a scintillating run as offensive coordinator at Alcorn (Miss.) State University.
Simmons worked three seasons at Alcorn State (2012-14) under Jay Hopson (now head coach at Southern Miss), and immediately helped initiate a meteoric revival of a proud Braves gridiron program, which had won just two (2) games the previous season.
Starting a true freshman quarterback and without spring practice, the Braves finished with a 4–7 record, highlighted by wins over previous Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champion Grambling State and #1 ranked Alabama A&M.
The 2013 season saw the Braves and Simmons' offense finish 9–3 overall (7–2 in the SWAC) and ranked #5 in the final SBN Black College Football Poll (its highest ranking since 1984).
Alcorn running back Arnold Walker had a career year in 2013, leading the conference in rushing (1,191 yards) and touchdowns (16), becoming the school's all-time leading rusher, and earning SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors. Simmons' offense finished 2013 ranked in the Top 25 nationally in Total Offense, Rushing Offense, and Scoring Offense.
The 2014 campaign was an even better year for Simmons and the Braves, as they won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship over Southern University, as well as being named Black College National Champions.
The Braves offense set many records that season, finishing second nationally in Scoring Offense, 8th in Total Offense, and 4th in Rushing Offense.
Quarterback John Gibbs, Jr, was selected as SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Black College Player of the Year, giving Simmons two consecutive Player of the Year selections.
Prior to his successful run at Alcorn, Simmons’ first full-time work as an assistant coach on the college level came at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro (2007-11), under head coach Rick Stockstill, who recruited Simmons to Clemson.
After three seasons as the running backs coach at MTSU, Simmons was promoted to Pass Game Coordinator. The following season, he was promoted to Offensive Coordinator. By the age of 30, he was one of the youngest coordinators at the FBS level.
During his time as Offensive Coordinator (2011), the Blue Raiders were ranked 20th nationally in Total Offense, while leading the Sun Belt Conference in Total Offense, Rushing Offense, and Third Down Conversion Percentage, and ranking second in Passing Offense.
Simmons began his coaching career in 2005 at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, FL, where he coached the quarterbacks and was also the Passing Game Coordinator.
There he had the opportunity to coach former NFL and USF quarterback B.J. Daniels. After one season, he was brought back to his alma mater Clemson as a Graduate Assistant Coach working with the quarterbacks in 2006.
SIMMONS AS AN ATHLETE
Simmons had a highly distinguished prep career at Quincy’s James Shanks High School, earning All-American honors as a quarterback (ranked #10 quarterback nationally), after leading the Tigers to their first district championship in 22 years, and being named Big Bend Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 2,505 yards and 32 touchdowns.
He received over 25 scholarship offers, signing with Clemson, where he lettered three years (2000–2002), participating in four bowl games (Peach, Gator, Humanitarian, and Tangerine).
Simmons earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Services (Sports) Marketing from Clemson in the spring of 2002, just 3 years after he enrolled, which is the fastest any football player has ever graduated from the university.
He initially transferred to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL for his senior season, but after being deemed ineligible to compete because FAMU was in provisional status as a Division I-A (now FBS) program, he enrolled at The Citadel (S.C.), where he garnered All Southern Conference First Team honors after leading the Bulldogs to a 6–6 record (the first non-losing season in 10 years).
Under Simmons’ leadership, The Citadel also accomplished a feat that had only been done by Marshall University, which was defeat to Furman, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern in the same season.
After Simmons' college career, he played one season of Arena Football in the United Indoor Football League for the Sioux City Bandits.
Willie Román Simmons was born in Tallahassee on October 12, 1980 to Willie and Phyllis Simmons. He is the youngest of three children and the only son.
Simmons is married to the former Shaia René Beckwith (also a Quincy native), who is a two time graduate of Florida A&M University .
They have four children - two daughters, Raven and Shailoh, and two sons, Louis III, and Wraylon.
@Wikipedia and Prairie View A&M Athletic Communications contributed portions of this release.