Down but not out
Having played more than 3,700 snaps for Duke football while starting 50 consecutive games, Perry Simmons limped off Bank of America Stadium’s playing field hopeful on Saturday night.
Sure his knee had bent awkwardly and he’d been felled by the injury. But when the initial searing pain subsided, Duke’s starting right tackle let himself think about returning to play.
That ended when Duke’s training staff had him attempt to mimic the moves his position requires.
“I tried to get down in the stance,” Simmons said Monday. “I totally lost stability in my knee. I had no lateral support. I knew it was bad then.”
Simmons had suffered two torn ligaments in his right knee -- the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL). He’ll miss Duke’s game against Texas A&M in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl and, as a redshirt senior, his Duke career is over.
But you won’t find him bitter.
“It’s a bummer that I will not be able to play in that final game,” Simmons said. “But its been a helluva ride and [I’m] thankful to be a part of it.”
Even though his college football playing career ended during that 45-7 loss to No. 1 Florida State in the ACC championship game, Simmons is a two-time Academic All-American with other good things in his life.
As he spoke Monday via cellphone, he rode in a New York City cab after traveling up from the Triangle.
Tonight, at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Simmons will be one of 16 players nationwide to receive the National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Award. Last Friday night, at an ACC banquet in Charlotte, he received the Jim Tatum Award as the league’s top senior football scholar-athlete.
Carrying a 3.8 grade-point average in civil engineering earned him those awards.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be considered with all these guys,” Simmons said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t expect it. You don’t think about it while you are working hard. It just shows when you put in the hard work and try to do the right things, things pay off for you.”
Simmons lived the motto on and off the field during his Duke career. This season, he helped the Blue Devils compile a 10-3 record that marked the most wins in a single season in school history. Duke is ranked No. 22 in the latest Associated Press poll.
With Simmons helping lead the way, Duke’s offense averages 31.6 points per game. Blue Devils quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette have been sacked only 16 times, the third-lowest number in the ACC, while Duke’s rushing offense averages 173.1 yards per game.
“Perry is one of the finest individuals I've known in my life,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He is a tremendous football player and competitor. Also, he is truly the definition of a student-athlete in every sense. We appreciate Perry's contributions to our program as a player and leader.”
For the first time since 2009, the Blue Devils will take the field at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on New Year’s Eve without Simmons in the starting lineup. Lucas Patrick is expected to take over for Simmons.
Between now and then, Simmons is focusing on helping Patrick be ready for Texas A&M.
”I will be helping him out as much as I can,” Simmons said. “Get him ready to go. It’s a good thing we have a couple of weeks. It will give him a chance to get ready for the position.”
“He’s a great player. He will be fine in there. I’m not worried out him. He has to get comfortable at right tackle. I’ll do anything I can to make that happen.”
The way Simmons has performed in the classroom and on the field at Duke, there’s little doubt as to whether or not he’ll deliver on that promise.
A special commemorative section looking back on Duke football’s historic 2013 season.