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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
A Closer Look: Traye Simmons
SAN DIEGO – Traye Simmons sat at his locker after a recent practice, free to text on his phone.
The undrafted rookie, like many of his peers, finds himself with fewer post-practice interviews and a lot less expectations.
“I went from being a star (at Minnesota) for a long time to barely getting reps,” Simmons said. “It’s different.”
He wasn’t complaining. In fact, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound cornerback seemed as content as could be after a few weeks with the Chargers.
Like so many young players, special teams have become the venue that could make him an asset. That’s something new to Simmons, who played little to no special teams while shutting down some of the best receivers in the Big Ten for the Golden Gophers.
“I think I’m making the adjustment very well,” Simmons said. “It’s nothing but just running and being (physical) and hitting people.
“(Special Teams Coach Steve Crosby) does a great job of explaining what we have to do. From there, your athletic ability just takes over. The running and being (physical) and playing with your hands and going down there and making plays and hitting and striking folks, that comes naturally.”
Simmons made 94 tackles and intercepted six passes for Minnesota after transferring from the College of the Sequoias, a junior college in Visalia, Calif.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection with 13 passes defensed as a junior, Simmons considered declaring for the NFL Draft but returned to help Minnesota to an appearance in the Insight Bowl.
He posted middle-of-the-road 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day, running on old AstroTurf, and his height remains at the opposite end of the spectrum of the Chargers’ tall receivers.
The former track star did prove his speed early in life. He helped his USA Track & Field 1,600-meter relay team to a 10-and-younger national championship and placed third in the 100 and 200-meter dash at 12 years old.
Asked what he thinks will separate himself from more than a dozen other undrafted rookies jostling for roster spots, a confident Simmons cited his passion for the game.
“I like to know what I’m doing,” he said. “I feel I already have that athletic ability to be in this league. Every time I study film and know what I’m doing and know what my opponents are doing, I always come out on top. That’s the edge I feel I have towards being successful in this league.
“I think football, the most out of any sport, teaches me about life. When things get hard, just work to achieve what you get. Because especially at this level, everybody’s good. It’s just, what are you willing to sacrifice? How much are you willing to work on your craft? That’s what separates the best from the mediocre guys in this league.”