BOULDER – If all goes as Eric Kiesau hopes (and Monday morning his hopes were extremely high), Andre Simmons will arrive on campus Thursday morning and be ready to participate in the Buffaloes’ first practice the following day.
Should it happen just like that, with no further complications, credit both Kiesau and Simmons for perseverance not normally required to put a prospect on the football field.
But Colorado is not counting on Simmons being just any prospect, and Simmons sounds determined to be a cut above, like a guy prepared to deliver something special.
“I’ll be there Thursday,” Simmons said Monday afternoon. “I’m going to make it.”
“I think he is,” Kiesau said. “I just know I’d feel terrible for him if he didn’t; he’s put in so many hours trying to do this.”
In instances such as these, it’s always prudent to let someone else (read: admissions office) make the definitive call. Buffs fans, and undoubtedly a few coaches, will collectively breathe easier when/if game-week arrives and Simmons has worked his way into Kiesau’s game plan.
But know this: Simmons’ hopes of playing here match – probably exceed – Kiesau’s. Understanding what the talented junior college receiver has undertaken since January to qualify for admission to CU, that’s perfectly understandable.
Kiesau recruited Simmons out of Independence (Kan.) Community College and has kept in daily contact with him this summer while Simmons finished course work that would allow him to enroll at CU.
To be admitted, Simmons, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Blackville, S.C., has had to complete nine junior college courses between January and this week’s opening of preseason drills.
Even after a sudden and unexpected post-spring promotion that saw him move from passing game coordinator/receivers coach to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Kiesau had enough time and energy invested in Simmons to stay the course in pushing him to complete the required course work.
Frequently over the past several months, Kiesau was Simmons’ wake-up call and turn-down service – the first person Simmons spoke with in the morning, the last person to talk with Simmons that night.
“I’d call him up some mornings before 8, then call him after 10 (p.m.) to check in with him,” Kiesau said.
Said Simmons: “Coach Kiesau has had faith in me, faith that I would get it done. He kept telling me about coming up there, playing in front of 60,000 people, playing in the Big 12, playing on television . . . he kept me motivated.”
More than that, Kiesau also kept Simmons on track, rousing him many mornings to make sure he was logged in for on-line course work, then following up in the evenings “just to ask me how it went,’’ Simmons said.
“He’s been 100 percent behind me, but I always knew it was up to me and I had to get it done. The people who doubted me, those people don’t know me.”
Kiesau was, maybe still is, fearful of Simmons not being physically ready to begin competing when camp opens, first because of the class work required for Simmons’ enrollment and second because of a spring appendectomy that could have been a setback.
For those reasons, Kiesau theorized that Simmons will need the bulk of August camp to “get back in playing shape and learn the offense. I think all he’s done this summer is his school work.
``It’s just been a ton of work for him – there’s no other way to say it.”
Simmons, though, claimed the bout with appendicitis ``made me stronger’’ because he knew he had to ramp up his conditioning work and that he was able to squeeze in time for conditioning over the past several months.
The real question, though, is how his training measures up to that done by incoming players who have spent most of the summer on campus working under the grueling regimen set by strength coach Jeff Pitman.
Players say there’s no substitute for the real `Pit’ thing, but Simmons insists he will show up ``in shape’’ and eager to trim his most recent 40-yard dash timing of 4.46 seconds to the 4.39 he claims as his best.
He also said he has been catching about 50 footballs a day launched by a passing machine – an endeavor that should have helped him maintain his hand-eye coordination, but couldn’t have approximated running routes and catching passes thrown by one of his future quarterbacks.
But those details, minor compared to those of the past seven months, will be worked out once Simmons finally is present and participating – hopefully on Friday.
All players are scheduled to report by Thursday at noon. The afternoon’s itinerary calls for physical examinations and individual photos to be taken and equipment to be issued, followed by dinner and meetings.
The Buffs’ first practice (full team) is scheduled from 5:30 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Friday.