Ole Miss QB Austin Simmons is an athletic, academic prodigy

Published 11:00 am Monday, September 11, 2023

Quarterback coach Oliver Bozeman noticed something special about Austin Simmons when he arrived to a training session 30 minutes early and immediately begin his own pre-workout routine.

While finishing a previous session, Bozeman saw Simmons, then in fourth grade, sprinting and stretching while he awaited his turn.

“That was the first time that I’d actually ever seen that from a kid,” said Bozeman, who has trained NFL players from Michael Vick to Justin Fields. “I usually get that from pros — getting to sessions early to get in their stretching and different things like that.”

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Simmons was different. He’s a football and baseball player raised by a former football player turned coach, and he’s now garnering attention as one of the nation’s most unique recruits.

While most teenagers have returned to high school by this time of year, the 17-year-old Simmons is enrolled at Ole Miss after completing high school by his sophomore year.

Simmons reclassified from the class of 2025 to 2023 and arrived on campus at Ole Miss already a college junior. He has his associate degree and is on track to earn his bachelor’s degree in sports medicine by age 19.

“It takes a special kid to do what he’s done,” said Rebels co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Charlie Weis Jr., “where you’re a sophomore in high school, and I’m watching his spring game and then boom, all of a sudden he’s here for us. He’s a very intelligent kid. That’s really helped him.”

Simmons began taking high school courses in the sixth grade. His father, David, saw that he could handle an accelerated learning approach, so he put him in online classes.

Simmons worked every day — during car rides, before workouts, in the summer — to get even further ahead. By what was technically his ninth grade year, he fulfilled all his high school academic requirements.

He took 15 credit hours of college courses, which are weighted on a 6.0 scale rather than the typical 4.0, to finish high school with a 5.3 GPA, while still being athletically eligible to compete at the high school level.

“Because I’ve coached in college and pros, I know what it takes,” David Simmons said. “It makes no sense to go to a regular school for him. If he wasn’t an athlete, I’d let him go to regular school.”

Simmons showed an interest in sports at a young age when he would go to football practices with his father. David Simmons initially wanted his son to play baseball because he was left-handed.

“He begged me to play football,” David Simmons said. “He actually showed some moxie and was tough, and it wasn’t scary. So I was like, ‘OK, maybe you can play.’”

In 2022, Simmons had over 3,000 yards passing for Pahokee High School in South Florida.

Because he was home schooled, Simmons could train more often than other kids his age.

Entering his second year of high school, Simmons threw in the offseason to college receivers who were working with Bozeman in preparation for the NFL, including Chris Olave of the New Orleans Saints and Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins.

Bozeman credited Simmons’ offseason of work for his successful sophomore year on the field, but the difference in working with speedy NFL-bound receivers and going back to compete with high school players was an adjustment, which resulted in some timing issues on the field.

“The argument on his end was, ‘If I move fast, then I’m a little bit too far ahead of the players that I’m playing with,’” Bozeman said, “’So I’ll always be overthrowing them, or I’ll always be a couple of steps ahead of them. So the timing will never match up.’

“It kind of like dawned on us that this kid prepares with college players getting ready to go to the pros, and then now you have to switch gears. He’s with these guys three months from December all the way to the draft. And then right before the season starts, goes back with his receivers in high school that aren’t on the same level of the kids that he’s been working with for the last three or four months.”

Given Simmons was already academically advanced, enrolling in college early became the solution.

Simmons committed to the Florida Gators in April but flipped his commitment to Ole Miss in June and reclassified to the class of 2023.

He’s ranked by the recruiting site 247Sports.com as the No. 35 quarterback prospect in the class of 2023.

“No one can really say they got the chance to jump two years ahead and compete in the SEC,” Simmons said recently on the Coach Me Coach podcast, “and possibly have a chance to play on a team like Ole Miss. Ole Miss has a reputation of building great quarterbacks for the league. So it’s really an opportunity I couldn’t miss.”

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Simmons added that his conversations with Weis and head coach Lane Kiffin during a recruiting visit convinced him that Ole Miss was the best place to develop.

David Simmons said the decision ultimately came down to both baseball and football.

He described his son as an old school-type quarterback, likening him to Peyton Manning. Some have compared Simmons to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is also left-handed.

“I think people don’t realize how fast Austin really is,” David Simmons said. “Not really slow. We just never ran him in high school because we had a second-string quarterback that was very good. So we didn’t want to risk him getting injured just to run him for 10 yards. … He can pretty much play any style.”

Simmons is joining a loaded quarterback room, with incumbent Rebels starter Jaxson Dart and former Oklahoma State starter Spencer Sanders, as well as LSU transfer Walker Howard. But David Simmons expects his son to be able to compete at quarterback soon.

Simmons is also a left-handed pitcher whose fastball tops out in the mid-90s, and the opportunity to fit into the Rebels’ rotation right away was also a deciding factor.

Simmons’ position as a two-sport athlete and a very young college student puts him in a unique situation of balance and pressure, but the same work ethic and maturity that got him this far has already been noticed by coaches and teammates at the college level.

“He’s done a tremendous job,” Weis said recently, “all things considered, with his situation. He’s getting better each and every day. His mentality is just fantastic.”