Blue Chip countdown: MSU commit Simmons ready to thrive

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Antjuan Simmons

The Detroit News continues its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2017 with Antjuan Simmons of Ann Arbor Pioneer at No. 6.

Antjuan Simmons had a roller-coaster ride of a senior year at Ann Arbor Pioneer, so much of a wild ride that he said his philosophy class played a major role in his life.

Simmons, a four-star linebacker/running back, committed to Ohio State prior to his senior season, then was hampered by an ankle injury. He decommitted from Ohio State in late November, re-opened his recruitment, then announced earlier this month he would be attending and playing at Michigan State.

“It’s a great situation for me,” said Simmons of picking the Spartans. “I feel comfortable there. They have great people there and I can get a great education.”

Simmons earned a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team for his work on the defensive end, getting in on 73 tackles while intercepting two passes and blocking two field goals.

MSU coach Mark Dantonio and his staff recruited Simmons, who is No. 6 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list, as an outside linebacker.

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Simmons, 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, said he didn’t feel near 100 percent all season, a reason he rushed for just 433 yards on 73 carries. He also had 10 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Simmons put himself on the radar his junior year when he rushed for 1,112 yards and 18 touchdowns while receiving more than a dozen offers during the season.

Antjuan Simmons

Simmons didn’t play at the same level of his junior year until the Week 8 game against Ypsilanti Lincoln when he ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in a 26-12 victory.

“The Lincoln game was the first time I felt above 70 percent since I was battling an ankle injury,” Simmons said. “I felt I was at 85 percent for the Lincoln game. All the swelling was finally going down in Week 8. I was able to run as fast as I could, cut on it, plant, able to play running back more, and also able to play outside the box, so that was really good. Finally, I was able to do what came really naturally to me.”

Simmons’ injury-plagued season took a heavy toll on him. He got relief during his philosophy class.

“My philosophy class was a highlight of my senior year, definitely memorable because there was a lot of stuff I was going through mentally as far as the football season, and things I was battling myself on,” Simmons said. “My teacher James Robert and the rest of my class helped me figure out who I really am, what I believe in and what I stand for. They showed me how to look at things, see through people’s faults. I still love people even after stuff they’ve done.”

Simmons declined to comment on why he decommitted from Ohio State. He originally planned on enrolling early at Ohio State, but will now graduate in June. He is an accomplished student and plans to be a special education teacher and coach.

“I didn’t plan on enrolling early -- I could have -- but there was a numbers issue going on, so I backed out of it,” Simmons said. “I wouldn’t change anything, though. Everything has happened for a reason, and I mean everything has happened for a reason as far as the recruiting process and I’m satisfied with it.”

So, was Michigan ever in the picture? After all, the Big House sits across the street from Pioneer.

“They recruited me, but they had their top guys, you know the guys that they really, really wanted, and that’s not a slap in the face or anything like that to me,” Simmons said. “Just because I’m right across the street (at Pioneer), it doesn’t mean that they are obligated to recruit me that hard.

“Really, I’m just more comfortable at Michigan State and really I don’t want to be that close to home.”


No. 6: Antjuan Simmons, LB, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Michigan State)

No. 7: Cody White, WR, Walled Lake Western (Michigan State)

No. 8: Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE/LB, St. Joseph (Michigan)

No. 9: Jordan Reid, OT, Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan State)

No. 10: Deron Irving-Bey, DE, Flint Southwestern (Michigan)

No. 11: Phillip Paea, DT, Berrien Springs (Michigan)

No. 12: Hunter Rison, WR, Ann Arbor Skyline (Michigan State)

No. 13: JaRaymond Hall, OL, Oak Park (Michigan)

No. 14: Scott Nelson, S, U-D Jesuit (Wisconsin)

No. 15: Rodney Hall, QB, Detroit Cass Tech (Northern Illinois)


Twitter: @DavidGoricki