There's a new name to add to the list of outstanding football players who call Thomson their home. Timothy Simmons is a junior and one of the four captains for the Georgia School for the Deaf Tigers football team. The Tigers, who finished the season with a 7-1 record, were undefeated in eight-man football. Their only loss was against an 11-man team from Alabama.
"Timothy has a lot to do with this team's success," said Tigers Head Football Coach Erik Whitworth. "With his leadership on and off the field, and his knowledge of the game, he brings a lot to the game."
The GSD Tigers are one of 24 teams from schools for the deaf that are in the eight-man category. They were co-national champions with the Arkansas and Minnesota Schools for the Deaf. Located in Cave Springs just outside of Rome, Ga., the GSD is one of three state schools operated by the Georgia Department of Education. State Superintendent Kathy Cox visited the school last Thursday to honor the co-national championship football team.
"The day was one of those fish tales," Coach Whitworth said. "I didn't think it was going to be real big, but by the time we finished with it, it was a whopper. It was a great day for the kids. They really enjoyed it. ... And it was real nice of the state superintendent to come down here and recognize them."
It is the first co-national championship of eight-man football in the school's 160 year history. They won 11-man championships in '90 and '92, when they had larger enrollment. And the coach credited his team captains, whom he said "got these 19 other men out here focused and went out and played some football."
Coach Whitworth said he has coached other teams at GSD that ended their season with close to the same record, but this team stood out above those others in rushing.
"By far, Timothy has shattered every rushing record that I can find in print anywhere here at the school," the coach said.
Rushing for over 6,000 yards in three years, Coach Whitworth describes Timothy as "a running machine."
And he doesn't know how to quit. Coach said he has to literally pull Timothy out of the game. In the coach's 26-year career, Timothy is the only eighth grader to ever have asked to take practice equipment home during the summer and holiday breaks.
"And he's done it every year since then," Coach Whitworth said. "He wore the (harness) slap out. He wore the threads right out of the hook where he used it so much. He's a workhorse. He's one of those type of players that coaches dream about. ... Athletes like him and the rest of the guys I had on the team this year make me look like I know what I'm doing."
That is the work ethic that earned Timothy the position as one of the team's captains during his sophomore and junior years. He also was named to the First Team Deaf All-American at running back. And his football stats combined with the fact that he's the GSD's leading scorer in basketball (averaging 24 points per game) earned him a spot on the Rome News Tribune's All-Area First Team as an all-purpose player.
With the only difference in the deaf school football games and hearing school games being a thigh-tap snap count versus an audible snap count, Coach Whitworth said he has often wondered if he could lose Timothy to the Thomson High Bulldogs.
"I would hate to lose him, but he would be successful there because he's that kind of a young man," Coach Whitworth said. "He takes a challenge and he goes with it. He doesn't back down from any challenge."
In fact, Timothy was a Bulldog before he became a Tiger. He said his first experience with football was playing for Thomson Middle School. Timothy said he hopes to continue playing football or basketball in college; but right now, he's just enjoying himself in high school.
In a telephone interview with The McDuffie Mirror with Coach Whitworth serving as a translator, Timothy said one of his favorite football moments happened this year in a game against South Carolina. Timothy said the Tigers ran a fake reverse, and the entire Carolina team pulled over, thinking he had given the ball away.
"But I kept it and ran it in 60 yards for a touchdown," he said. "... I enjoyed this year and the team being national champions. It makes me proud of them, and we expect to do it again in '08."