The first time Copperas Cove’s Shontez Simmons picked up a football, he was in the seventh grade.
“I started off as a wide receiver,” Simmons recalled. “And then I got moved to running back and I’ve been here ever since.”
The Bulldawg senior is known for posting big numbers. On Friday, he ran for 165 yards on 14 carries against Waco, but he almost played a different game of football.
“I was pretty much discovering different sports when I was that young,” he said. “I started playing soccer, actually, and I encountered football and I’ve enjoyed it every since.”
And while he aspires to be a well-rounded running back like Le’Veon Bell, there’s another man who influences his athletic career.
“Definitely No. 1 is my father,” Simmons said. “He’s just taught me everything about football.
“He’s the one that keeps pushing me to do it, and multiple sports. To be honest, he’s taught me everything.”
Outside of football, Simmons runs track and is considering competing in powerlifting, “We’ll see what comes next.”
Before Bell came onto the NFL scene, Simmons also looked up to Marshawn Lynch.
“I’ve always desired to have that No. 24 jersey.”
In his freshman year, he debuted at No. 23 before being able to change his jersey to No. 24 the following season.
A lot has changed since he started Cove football, as Simmons now wears No. 4 on the field.
“I like that number,” he said. “I feel like that’s just me.
“It feels unique to me. It feels like it’s my number and I like that feeling so I think I’m going to stick with it.”
Another thing that has changed for Simmons is his pregame ritual.
“One of my rituals that I usually do, or used to do, all the time would be to fall asleep before a game,” he said, laughing.
When playing on Cove’s junior varsity gold squad, Simmons would have a bit of a wait before kickoff.
“Blue team would play first so I’d just lay down and mostly everybody else would be cheering and watching the game,” he explained. “But for me, I just liked to sleep.
“I felt like it got me prepared, got my energy ready, it got me focused. So that was one of my rituals that I enjoyed.”
Now on varsity, Simmons doesn’t have as much time to power nap before a game but it doesn’t seem to hinder his performance on the field in any way.
In his final season with the Bulldawgs, there’s one game that sticks out above the rest for Simmons.
“One of my favorite games that I ever had to play was last year,” he said. “We had to play against Waco Midway and it was probably one of my best games I ever played.
Simmons’ love of football comes from being able to contribute to his team and the success on the field, which is why he’s always enjoyed being moved all those years ago to the running back position.
Of all the games so far this season, the matchup with Ellison on Sept. 27 is among the most significant in his high school career.
“I have some friends there,” he said.
Some of the Bulldawgs and Eagles train in the summer together at a local gym.
“Back before Beyond Limits, we used to hang out all the time and that was just one of my favorite games.
“But going onto the next, probably one that I want to see what happens is probably against Temple.”
The Wildcats currently sit at the top of the District 12-6A, which is part of the motivation for Simmons.
“I’m curious how it will end up because we’ve got to be ready,” he noted. “I feel like they’re one of the tough opponents we have to deal with, so I want to see what it’s going to be like at the end of the game.”
When Simmons is not playing football, he’s being a typical teenager who relaxes by playing video games.
“I’m a big gamer,” he admitted. “It’s just nice to do when you have time on your hands- after the homework, after the football practice, after you studied — you just go on and just go play.”
If he’s not playing Fortnite, Overwatch or Rocket League, Simmons is usually out running.
Although running is a hobby of sorts, as a sophomore in the summer before his junior year, Simmons competed in the Texas AAU state track competition, where he won the 200 meters.
“I know what it’s like to be there on the track. You can see the speed of other people,” he explained of his motivation to go for a leisurely run. “And when you think about it, you just want to improve yourself and you get the chance to.
“So I sometimes think about just going outside and running because running gets you ready for everything, and I just enjoy it, to be honest.”