ATLANTA — The UGA coaches might have been feeling a little anxious about Tyler Simmons early Wednesday morning.
Is he coming to Athens … or headed for Tuscaloosa? Should we be worried about the swaying palm trees of south Florida?
In fairness to that, Simmons didn’t know his true college choice until right before the launch of National Signing Day, or Wednesday, or affectionately known as Hump Day in the corporate world.
In this respect, Simmons is a typical teenager, prone to waffle back and forth on certain decisions — even life-changing ones — until becoming at peace with a choice.
“It was kind of on my mind all week,” recalled Simmons, who chose UGA over Alabama and Miami (Fla.) on Wednesday and subsequently signed a National Letter of Intent with the Bulldogs. “Coming back from the Miami trip (official visit), talking to my parents, my family, everybody about it. Just to see where they stood on everything.
“… But my heart was always telling me ‘Georgia.’ Something in the back of my mind kept saying ‘Georgia’ — so that’s why I went with it.”
Simmons rates as the nation’s No. 62 receiver among the 2016 class (source: 247Sports.com). The soft-spoken, but affable McEachern High School standout has the proper size (5-foot-11, 194 pounds), hands and patience to catch balls and return kicks at the SEC level; but Simmons’ game-breaking speed might ultimately define his success with the Bulldogs … assuming the reports of a 4.41 40 time are accurate.
“Kirby Smart was actually the first (Alabama) recruiter to talk to me,” says Simmons, referring to when Smart — now the head coach at UGA — first established contact, on behalf of the Crimson Tide staff. “(Smart) told me beforehand, before he switched schools (from Alabama to UGA), because he knew he was going to switch somewhere. … He would tell me, ‘Wherever he was going, he would recruit the heck out of me.”
(For what it’s worth, Smart and a large contingent of UGA staffers made one final in-person push for Simmons last Thursday.)
It’s interesting that Smart privately acknowledged his potential exodus from Alabama (serving as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator from 2008-15) long before he accepted the UGA position. Prior to Mark Richt’s “mutual parting” with the Bulldogs, Smart might have viewed himself as a presumptive leader to fill the head-coaching vacancies at South Carolina, Illinois or Missouri, among others, midway through the 2015 campaign.
But UGA stepped up in early December with the aggressive Smart hire, prompting South Carolina officials to eventually tap Will Muschamp as head coach. (This marks the second time Muschamp will succeed Steve Spurrier at an SEC school.)
When pressed for reasons why he chose to flip his commitment from Alabama to UGA, Simmons was understandably vague about the late change of heart.
“(When choosing a school), coming in, of course you want to play. Of course you’re going to look at the depth charts,” says Simmons. “But at the end of the day, it’s more so about where you’re comfortable.”
Simmons admits to loving his recent trip to Miami, while also reconnecting with Richt (now the Hurricanes head coach). However, it would have also been impractical to be so far from his Georgia-based family, in terms of their readiness for game travel.
Compared to Miami, “Alabama was definitely No. 2,” reveals Simmons. And of course, that makes UGA No. 1.
“You know, home state (Georgia), start something new with a new coaching staff. That was the main thing” in his college decision, says Simmons.
It’s not often that Alabama — especially during the Saban era (four national titles since 2007) — would lose a verbal commit so close to National Signing Day. But Simmons commended the Crimson Tide fans for being “pretty classy” on social media (post-choice) … “except that one time on Periscope. But that’s life, that’s life, you can’t make decisions (to please) everybody else.”
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.