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West's Simmons works to get up to speed

By By CLAY WHITTINGTON - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
June 7, 2011 at 1:07 a.m.

Victoria West's E. J. Simmons attempts to block a pass to El Campo's Devontay Allen during the team's 7-on-7 game on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium. A series of six short matchups were played between five teams on Tuesday.

The pain in his knee was intense, but so was his determination to get back on the field.

During the opening game of the 2010 season, Victoria West cornerback and wide receiver E.J. Simmons' suffered a severe injury to his left knee while attempting to recover an onside kick.

In addition to costing the then-junior the remainder of the football season, the damage caused him to undergo major surgery and endure countless hours of physical therapy.

"Somebody dove and hit the side of my knee, I fell on top of it and everything just buckled inside of me," Simmons said. "It was the most pain I've ever felt in my life."

Simmons ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and damaged his meniscus.

Doctors repaired the knee by replacing the damaged ligaments with ones from his patella tendon and inserted a pair of screws to hold everything together.

Then came months of painful rehabilitation that felt like years to the multisport athlete, who also missed out on the entire baseball season.

On Tuesday, Simmons' efforts proved to be worth all the pain as he returned to the field with his teammates to take part in a 7-on-7 tournament at Memorial Stadium.

It was his first live action outside of spring practices, and, according to Simmons, he is back to 100 percent.

"I almost feel bionic now," he said. "At first, it was hard to trust my knee because I would wonder if it was going to get hurt again, but then I realized that everything is fine because it is probably one of the strongest knees on the team since it is not even real."

With Simmons helping spearhead the defense, the Warriors split their two 7-on-7 games by losing the first contest to El Campo before winning the second against Cuero.

The tournament continues each Tuesday for the next three weeks and includes six other area teams - Goliad, Bloomington, Cuero, Edna, El Campo and St. Joseph

While Simmons is thrilled to be back on the field, the injury gave him an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the game and life.

"It taught me that I can't take anything for granted because in one second everything can change," Simmons said.

During his recovery, Simmons assumed the role of coach as he shared his knowledge of with younger players.

It was an act Victoria West head coach Leonard McAngus greatly appreciated.

"It is tough on a kid when they've worked so hard and then they can't play," the coach said. "He handled it extremely well.

"He is definitely one of our senior leaders with all he has gone through, and we are going to lean on him heavily as far as making plays. He is a big key (to us being successful this season.)"

Despite missing Simmons from the lineup, the Warriors posted an overall record of 6-6 in 2010 and advanced to the area round of the playoffs before being eliminated by Weslaco East 42-35.

Now back at full strength, Simmons hopes to see his rehabilitation efforts translate into another memorable season for the Warriors this fall.

"I think we have a good chance to go pretty far in the playoffs, but our first goal is to win district," Simmons said. "Then we will just see how everything else goes."

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