QB Chris Simms admires his father's work on the field and in the broadcast booth
(by Luke Sacks, NFLPlayers.com)
When your father is a former Super Bowl MVP quarterback and part of one of the top NFL broadcast teams in the country, it's hard to get out from under his shadow. But second-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms, son of former New York Giant and current CBS analyst Phil Simms, isn't running from the legend of his famous father.
Phil Simms played for the Giants from 1979-1993 and after a rough start, became one of the most popular players in team history. He was the offensive leader of the 1986 team that demolished the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI and also earned a title ring as part of the 1990 team that captured Super Bowl XXV despite missing the post-season due to injury. He holds 19 Giant passing records and his number 11 jersey was retired by the franchise in 1995.
Chris Simms, who bares a striking resemblance to his father with his blonde hair and thin frame, was one of the most heavily recruited prospects in the country coming out of New Jersey's Ramapo High School in 1998. With an NFL pedigree and a cannon for an arm, he was slapped with the "can't miss" label and eventually decided on the University of Texas, a far cry from the Jersey suburbs in which he was raised.
"I pretty much knew I was going to go far away no matter what but as far as culture shock, there definitely was a little bit of that at first," Simms recalled on arriving on campus. "Some people down in Austin had some trouble dealing with the fact that a 'Yankee' was the starting quarterback for Texas."
But once Simms took the reigns of the Longhorn offense, it was easy to see why a Northerner from New Jersey had been chosen to lead the offense of one of the most prestigious football programs in the nation. In his four-year career, Simms played in 43 games with 32 starts and tossed 58 touchdown passes, second in Texas annals only to Major Applewhite's 60. Simms is the school's all-time leader in career completion percentage and passer efficiency rating and was a perfect 15-0 as a starter at home. "I had a great time down there," Simms said of his college experience. "In my four years there, I don't think I could have had any more fun than I did."
Being the most recognizable face of one of the top college football teams in the country exposed Simms to media scrutiny, large crowds and demanding fans, which made his transition to the NFL a bit easier. "Without a doubt being at Texas helped prepare me," he stated. "All of this other stuff is just secondary now. I had to grow up in a hurry and it put things in perspective. Playing in front of those crowds and the following we have in Austin for the University of Texas, it was like playing for a professional team."
Prior to being a football star in his own right, Simms can recall Sundays at the Meadowlands, watching his father and rooting for the Big Blue. "Those were some of the best times of my life for sure," he stated. "Being able to wake up on a Sunday and go over to Giants Stadium and watch my dad there still gives me chills to think about it this day. When the Giants won, they were great and when they lost, they weren't great until the next win."
Even now, when Simms finds himself back in the Garden State, he will pull out a video and watch his father pick apart a defense. "I break out old tapes all the time," he confessed. "I have almost all my Dad's games practically memorized in terms of who won, what the score was, what he did stat-wise. Whenever I find myself home in New Jersey after the season ends or before training camp, I always put in a tape and dad ends up watching it with me and it brings back a lot of good memories."
Simms followed in his father's footsteps when he was drafted by the Bucs in the third round (97th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was Tampa's inactive third quarterback in all 16 games in 2003. Despite not seeing a snap in regular-season action, Simms has performed well in the preseason both this year and last and is pleased with his progress in the NFL thus far.
"I'm pretty pleased with my development," he said. "I'm not quite where I want to be but I'm working hard towards getting there. It's a pretty tough offense to learn at first but I feel like I'm getting the hang of it. It's just a matter of getting out on the field and executing now."
Working with Head Coach Jon Gruden and starter Brad Johnson, who has 13 years of NFL experience under his belt, has been an invaluable learning experience for Simms. "It's been a dream come true," he said. "I could not have asked for a better situation. Being here and sitting behind Brad, I am able to learn a lot from him. And Coach Gruden's energy and the work ethic he brings every day makes a lot of guys on our team respect him and that makes us want to work harder for him."
Simms feels himself growing more comfortable and capable within Gruden's complex offense. Unlike some young quarterbacks who are thrown into the fire immediately, Simms has had the chance to watch and learn. "Of course I'd like to be out there playing; I think any quarterback would," he said. "But it's something I was definitely prepared for. I've been watching football my whole life and I've seen a lot of rookie quarterbacks sit out and learn by watching from the sidelines, so I was prepared for it. It has definitely helped me in a lot of ways."
When Simms does get the chance to show his stuff when it counts, he plans to take at least one thing from his dad's repertoire with him onto the field. "The thing I always respected most about my dad was his toughness and his willingness to stand in the pocket and throw a great ball down the field even when things were collapsing around him," Chris offered. "Those are things that I feel like I can bring to the table as well. I think both of us have very good arm strength and that always helps."
While Phil certainly keeps tabs on his son's development as an NFL quarterback, Chris also keeps a close watch on his father's broadcasts, even catching a few minutes before or after his own game on any given Sunday.
"I caught his games a lot in college and even this past year there were times where we had a 1:00 p.m. home game and he was doing the 4:00 p.m. game so I got to catch some," Chris said. "I honestly enjoy listening to my dad because I know he is going to tell it how it is. I know he studies both teams very hard and he can tell you the little things that a lot of announcers can't."
This time of year, father and son are both busy. Chris is preparing for his season with the Bucs and Phil is gearing up for another year of broadcasts for CBS, this time with a new partner in network staple Jim Nantz. "I probably talk to my dad a little bit less this time of year," Chris said. "We still talk two or three times a week but it's hard day-in and day-out. He's got his own busy schedule and I'm on my own schedule so we really just talk whenever we get the chance."