Finding Mudville: Antonio Simmons
This is tough. I make my living with words and I’m suddenly at a loss for them.
I’ve covered sports for a lot of years. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches over that time and I’ve come across some good guys and some not so good guys. You can spot them both from a long ways off.
Antonio Simmons was one of the good guys.
Simmons passed away on Sunday from an apparent heart attack at the tender age of 34, leaving the Cross football team, Cross High School and the entire community reeling.
“Antonio played at Berkeley and Charleston Southern, and he coached at Cross,” said Timberland football coach and athletic director Art Craig. “He was about as homegrown as they come.”
Simmons was one of the architects in the resurrection of the Trojan football program and its first football state championship last fall. He was Coach Shaun Wright’s right hand man, his brother, both on the field and off.
But Simmons’ value to Cross, the football and track teams, the school and the community, can’t be counted in wins and losses, and goes beyond the X’s and O’s on a locker room blackboard. Those X’s and O’s represent young men, and their lives, and Simmons had a positive effect on every football and track player, and student that ever suited up in the Trojan blue and white, or walked through the halls of Cross High School.
Simmons came to Cross with Wright in 2009 and quickly became a fixture, sitting in the far corner of the gymnasium during basketball games, holding court with former players and visiting coaches, or seated in the bleachers, always surrounded by players, current and former.
“This is a very sad day for Cross High School and the community of Cross,” Wright said. “This was very sudden, a very tragic thing. Antonio was one of the good guys.”
It takes a special kind of person to be a coach. It doesn’t matter at what level, high school, middle school or park and rec. Coaching is a monumental investment of a person’s time to be with kids that are most likely not your own.
Antonio Simmons was one of those special kinds of people. He enjoyed his job and always had a smile on his face whenever I saw him.
For Antonio, winning the state championship in 2012 was the pinnacle accomplishment of his young coaching career, not because of the championship ring, but because of what being a champion meant to the Cross players, the faculty and students, and the community.
You knew Antonio would get the chance to head up his own program someday. You wanted that for the guy. You want to see guys like Antonio succeed.
He was a success both on the football field and in track where this spring both the boys and girls track teams brought home Region championships.
His passing leaves a gaping hole in the collective heart of Cross High School and some big shoes to fill. His impact on Cross and Berkeley County will be felt long after all of us are gone.
That’s the kind of guy Antonio Simmons was, someone his students and players will always remember.