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Pack93z
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2010-08-16T23:25:49Z
While there were plenty of things to criticize Wayne upon.. his playing style was not among them nor the intensity he brought upon the field.

Many times when watching the Packers.. I find myself longing for a player with the edge like this cat.. had the pleasure of meeting him once in Green Bay... I seemly towered over him, thinking he was kind of small.. but the guy on the field more often than not played large.

Note the video.. no staged celebration.. raw live emotion jacking up the team.. that boys is how a proper celebration in my mind is done. No staged production.. no gimmick.. just raw emotion flowing.. intensity.

BTW... couldn't find his stick verse the 49ers.. vivid in my mind. ;)

Quote:


After They Were Packers

Few men know what its like to scale the heights of Super Bowl glory or how it feels to come back down. In After They Were Packers, his follow-up to Downfield! (1996, Prairie Oak Press), Eau Claire Leader-Telegram assistant local news editor Jerry Poling reveals the lives of some members of the 1997 Super Bowl champions after they left pro football. Also included are former greats Lynn Dickey, Don Majkowski, Eddie Lee Ivery and others who played prior to the 1990s. Some find their own way to contentment as ordinary men, while others struggle with demons too powerful to overcome.

Wayne Simmons
College: Clemson.
Position: Linebacker, 1993-97. Wore No. 59.
Highlight: Started every game at left outside linebacker during the 1996 Super Bowl season and ranked fifth on the team in tackles.
After football: Owned a restaurant in Kansas City. Died in a one-car auto accident, August 23, 2002, in Independence, Missouri. He was 32.

From the Bottom up

On Jan. 6, 1996, the Green Bay Packers were at a crossroads as an up-and-coming football team.

In the previous two seasons under Coach Mike Holmgren, the Packers had suffered the identical fate in the playoffs, winning in the first round against Detroit only to lose in the second round to the powerful Dallas Cowboys. Now they were once again in the fateful second-round game, about to face the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers at 3Com Park.

Even though Holmgren and General Manager Ron Wolf had the Packers headed in the right direction four straight winning seasons and three straight trips to the playoffs the Packers had something to prove: Could they take the next step as a team? [img_r]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_NsmtO0MERs0/SZivfED7BdI/AAAAAAAAVCo/CB9qm351oQc/SIMINTE3.JPG[/img_r]

One more win would put them in the National Football Conference championship game. The Packers had gone 11-5 winning six of their last seven games to win the Central Division title.

Despite the Packers strong season, overcoming the second-round jinx against the defending Super Bowl champs wasnt going to be easy. The 49ers had Steve Young at quarterback, Jerry Rice at wide receiver, and eight other Pro Bowl players. The 49ers, led by Coach George Seifert, had beaten San Diego decisively, 49-26, in the Super Bowl a year earlier.

If the Packers, their coach and their general manager had something to prove, there was no better place than San Francisco to prove it. Holmgren grew up in the San Francisco area and was an assistant coach with the 49ers from 1986 to 1991, when they won back-to-back Super Bowls, before leaving to become coach of the Packers in 1992.

With his thick West Coast offense playbook, Holmgren took a cerebral approach to the game. On this day, however, Holmgren knew his Packers had all but mastered the Xs and Os. They knew their roles as players, but they needed to take something else with them onto the field.

In his pre-game talk, Holmgren told the Packers there was only one way to knock off the Super Bowl champions on their home turf: Kick the crap out of them.

Holmgrens talk hit home with Wayne Simmons. Of all the Packers in the locker room that day, including fierce competitors like Reggie White, LeRoy Butler, and Brett Favre, no one liked the idea of kicking the crap out of the 49ers better than Simmons. [img_r]http://www3.jsonline.com/packer/arc/0110/image/simkell.jpg[/img_r]

At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Simmons was far from the biggest player on the team, but he may have been the meanest on the field. He intimidated opponents with his brute strength, inspired teammates with his pointed criticism and comments, and played without fear.

Its no wonder Simmons got along well with defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur, who once said, If you dont like to fight, you shouldnt be in this business.

Simmons liked to fight. He brought that toughness and nastiness to the Green Bay Packers, said George Koonce, who started at linebacker next to Simmons in 1996. Wayne would take a fight in the bar and take it right into the street. He brought that fight to the defense. He was a hell of a player.

Buoyed by Holmgrens speech, Simmons made a difference that day in San Francisco. On the 49ers first offensive play of the game, Steve Young threw a screen pass to fullback Adam Walker, but Simmons saw it coming.

He drilled Walker with a vicious hit, jarring the ball loose. Packers rookie Craig Newsome picked up the ball and ran untouched 31 yards to the end zone. It was the first blow in what would become a 27-17 victory, a win that took the Packers to the NFC championship game for the first time since 1967.

Simmons certainly followed Holmgrens admonition to kick the crap out of them, making 16 tackles (11 solo), including the forced fumble and a sack of Young.

The next week, the Packers Super Bowl hopes once again were ended by the Cowboys in Dallas, but this time it was different: It was for the NFC championship, and they had a shot at winning. They led, 27-24, going into the fourth quarter. The Packers lost, 38-27, but they were one step closer to the Super Bowl, which they finally would reach and win the next season.

For Wayne Simmons, it was a great time to be young, rich, and a Green Bay Packer.

Wayne General Simmons his friends called him Big Money had come a long way up from Low Bottom in South Carolina.

***

Tom Gardo sensed something special about Wayne Simmons as a person when he met him in 1985 at Hilton Head High School in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Simmons was a promising freshman on the football team. Hilton Head coaches saw that he was struggling with his grades and could use someone to act as a mentor and guardian.

Gardo, a businessman whose daughters were going to the school, had volunteered to help struggling athletes. When the coaches asked Gardo to help Simmons, he agreed.

The first thing Gardo did was give Simmons a ride. He had been hitchhiking 25 miles to school from his home in Low Bottom, a marshy low country near the Atlantic Ocean. Gardo, who owned a conversion van, began taking Simmons home after football practice.

At the end of each trip, Gardo began to read books to Simmons as they sat in the van outside his home. Gardo liked to read and thought it would be a way to break the ice, expand Simmons small world, and get him interested in learning.

Simmons could read, but he liked the fatherly attention. No one likely ever had read to him before. Simmons grew up without a father, and his mother, trying to support three children by working three jobs, was seldom at home.

We just hit it off, Gardo said. I would take him home from practice three or four times a week, and we really got to know each other. He needed some help in school, guidance in how to study, but he was pretty bright. He never had any direction to study. He literally lived in a shack

Simmons mother, Dorothy, tried as best she could to make ends meet in her household, which included her mother, Mamie. She never married Waynes father. The house, one main room with bedrooms added on, was heated with a wood stove.

For firewood, Wayne would take an ax into the nearby woods, chop down a tree, drag it home, and then chop and splinter the wood, according to Bob Arundell, Simmons assistant football and basketball coach in high school and later his attorney.

One day, when Wayne was 12, he came into the house and found his mother crying. He asked her what was wrong. She explained that she simply couldnt make ends meet financially. She worked five days a week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. cleaning bedrooms at the posh Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, then from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Speedway gas station. On her two days off from Sea Pines, she worked at Market Express convenience store.

Despite her hard work, there seemed to be no way out of crushing poverty. We had some rough times, and we didnt have anything, she recalls. I didnt have money to live from day to day.

After explaining to Wayne how poor they were, Dorothy reached a point of despair. In their shack of a home in a poor region of coastal South Carolina, she realized that she never would be able to give her son the material things she thought he deserved. She believed he might have a better life with someone else.

The thought previously hadnt crossed her mind, but at that moment giving up her son seemed like the only solution to improve his life and, in some ways, hers, by taking away one of her biggest burdens.

I told him I wanted to put him up for adoption, Dorothy said.

Wayne wouldnt hear of it, and he made his mother a promise. He told me, if you take care of me to get me where I want to go, then I will take care of you some-day. He told me, Mom, youre doing alright.

His vow and vote of confidence reassured his mother. That gave me some strength to go on, Dorothy Simmons said.

By the end of that day, she decided not to put Wayne up for adoption; she realized that she no longer was in her predicament alone. She had a son and a friend. They were in it together.

***

At 12, Simmons already had set his sights beyond Low Bottom, where mostly everyone lived near or below the poverty level. A lot of people were unemployed and ended up in prison like Waynes older brother, Leon or spent their lives working for the rich and the tourists among the million-dollar homes, manicured golf courses, and shiny cars and yachts of Hilton Head.

At age 15, Simmons realized that he could escape poverty by working hard and saving his money to go to college. His mother had two years of college, and she didnt want to see him end up in her situation. I wanted for my son something other than I had, Dorothy recalls.

Drawing on his mothers work ethic, Wayne took as many odd jobs as he could handle. As he washed cars at Arnold Palmer Ford in Hilton Head, he dreamed that someday he would be successful enough to own a new car. The only way I could see out was going to college, becoming successful, Simmons told a reporter in 1993.

Me and my mom went to a bank to get a loan one day, and the bank turned her down. I wanted to become a banker so when someone like Dorothy Simmons comes in for a loan, shell get it.

Although not regarded by his teachers as college material, Wayne wasnt a slow learner. He just needed someone like Gardo to give him a push. When that happened, Simmons began to do well in school. He flourished in math, reading, and finance courses. He visited the library regularly, said Gardo, who owns a marketing and public relations firm.

Simmons was an all-state selection in basketball as a power forward. He was 6-foot-2 with a 35-inch vertical leap. A linebacker and split end, Simmons was all-state and runner-up as South Carolina player of the year in football.

***

By the time he was 18, Simmons was receiving college football recruiting letters from all over the country. Simmons picked Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, in the northwestern corner of the state.

Simmons became one of the best pass rushers in school history as a two-year starter, ranking fourth all-time with 19 career sacks. By the time he was a senior, Simmons had every scout in the NFL stopping by Clemson to watch him play.

But with all of his accomplishments on the football field, his academic achievements were at least as important to him. In May 1992, Simmons graduated with a degree in finance after four years. Earning a diploma meant more to Simmons, his mother, and Gardo than the chance to play in the NFL.

Simmons had one year of football eligibility remaining, so he entered graduate school at Clemson prior to being drafted by the Packers in 1993.

Together, the two achievements represented everything Simmons hoped for as a young man and as the son of a poor, single mother victory over the circumstances he was born into and financial security for himself and his family.

Simmons was the first person from his extended family to graduate from college.

***

He also was the first person picked by the Green Bay Packers in the 1993 draft.

Simmons became more than a football player to his Packers teammates. With his outgoing, outspoken personality and propensity for practical jokes, he helped keep the locker room loose and always had plenty of friends on and off the team.

Hed mimic everybody around him. He always had people in stitches, Gardo said.

If he wasnt a football player, he could have been a comedian, Dorothy Simmons said.

But Simmons was no angel. He liked to drink, drive fast, spend his money, listen to loud music, and date a number of women. He had an explosive temper, and it sometimes got him into trouble. At times he was like a big fish that wanted no part of being reeled in.

Sometimes, he would talk freely to the news media. Other times, he might not say a word to reporters for weeks.

If you didnt know him, youd think he was crazy, said Derrick Mayes, a wide receiver for the Packers in 1996. But he was probably one of the most loyal individuals Ive ever met.

Whatever Simmons had, women loved it, Gardo said.

He had multiple girlfriends. It was the way he carried himself, so up. He had that kind of physique. Women would put their telephone number in his pants pocket, and they didnt even know who he was, Gardo said, recalling the nights he would jump into a limousine with Simmons and other beefy Packers and head out to the nightclubs.

Gardo remembers one night when Simmons walked into a bar in Arizona. Three women who had been huddled around one man took a look at Simmons and immediately were by his side. Who is that guy? the first man asked Gardo.

The man left in Simmons wake was baseball star Barry Bonds.

***

Simmons liked playing and living in Green Bay. He didnt mind the cold weather. There seemed to be only one down side to Simmons Green Bay experience, but it was one that would prove to be his undoing.

He liked everything about Green Bay except Mike Holmgren. They just didnt hit it off, Gardo said.

Maybe the source of his uneasy relationship with the head coach was the impersonation of the often-stoic Holmgren that Simmons used to do for teammates in the locker room. He had everybody in stitches, Arundell said. The only one who didnt like it was Mike. Wayne was light and carefree. Mike was very serious.

Holmgren didnt have much patience for players who fumbled on the field or made mistakes off the field. He didnt like disruptions, and Simmons didnt help his future in that regard.

Simmons off-season activities did nothing to endear him to Holmgren. On March 1, 1997, he was arrested in Beaufort County, South Carolina, for drunken driving. That May, he was convicted and lost his drivers license for six months. His blood-alcohol level was 0.17, well over the legal limit of 0.10 in South Carolina.

That same month, after a ceremony at his old high school to retire his jersey number, Simmons was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl at a Savannah, Georgia, nightclub. The girl had graduated from Hilton Head High School that night. Simmons never was charged in the case, but the negative publicity may have sealed his fate with the Packers.

Nevertheless, in late May of 1997, the Packers re-signed Simmons, but only after he had failed to find a suitable contract elsewhere.

Described by Holmgren as high-strung and headstrong, Simmons wasnt around for long, however. Six games into 1997, he had just 27 tackles and hadnt made any big plays. He had quit talking to the media, was fined for being late to two team meetings, and was facing a $5,000 league fine for punching a Minnesota player during a September game at Lambeau Field.

The Packers sent him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth-round draft choice.

***

Simmons life wasnt the same after his expulsion from Green Bay. When he got traded, that started his downward slide, Gardo said.

Simmons was cut by the Chiefs during the 1998 season after a controversial Monday night game in which he was called for a personal foul. He was picked up by Buffalo and released after the season.

He retired and in 1999 returned to Kansas City to open a jazz and R&B nightclub and restaurant. The club opened a year late because of construction delays, but when it did open crowds lined up outside, waiting to get in. Business was good.

Then things went downhill. One day, Simmons showed up to find his safe at the restaurant cleaned out. Soon thereafter, he came to work and found all his expensive sound and light equipment gone. In another instance, he left town for a weekend and returned home to find his apartment cleaned out.

The problems were too much for Simmons financially. His club, 50/50 on Main, closed in 2002.

Gardo and Dorothy Simmons told Wayne that he was too trusting, that his friends were the perpetrators.

Wayne thought everybody was his friend. They stole my son blind, Dorothy Simmons said.

In the summer of 2002, months after the restaurant closed, Simmons told his mother that he was coming home to South Carolina.

He never made it.

On Aug. 23, 2002, he was out late and had been drinking, Gardo said. On Interstate 70 in Independence, Missouri, Simmons lost control and left the highway at about 2:45 a.m. The car flipped several times when it hit the ditch and then caught fire.

Simmons was unconscious, and bystanders couldnt pull him from the car because he was belted in. Firefighters eventually arrived, put out the fire, and pulled him from the car.

Simmons, 32, was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital, but officials believe the crash and not the fire killed him. The cause of death officially was listed as blunt head and neck injury, according to a Jackson County, Missouri, medical examiners report.

Simmons blood-alcohol level was 0.19, more than twice the states legal limit, said Thomas Young, Jackson County medical examiner.

The death left Gardo sad but not shocked. He knew that Simmons lived his life on the edge and didnt worry much about the consequences.

He didnt have a death wish, but if he told me once he told me several times that he was not going to live long. I need to live now, Gardo quoted Simmons.

Simmons never married, but he left behind three children. One of his children, a son, was a senior at his dads alma mater, Hilton Head High School, in 2005 2006. That son was the result of a relationship Simmons had in high school. Wayne Simmons always supported the boy financially, Gardo said.

Gardo was aware of a second child that Simmons had fathered. After Simmons death, Gardo learned that a woman was pregnant with a third child that belonged to Simmons.

Though his life was short, Wayne Simmons lived to make good on the promise he made his mother when he was just 12. When he signed with the Packers for $3.2 million in 1993, he told his mother she no longer had to work three jobs, no longer had to work period.

With his $2 million signing bonus, he bought his mom a log house on the Savannah River in Hardeeville, South Carolina. He also gave her a monthly allowance.

[myspace]45015484[/myspace]

Dorothy Simmons misses the son who always was the life of the party but who also once spent six weeks alone traveling through Europe and falling in love with history.

Tom Gardo will miss Simmons, too, the nights on the town in the limousine, Brett Favre giving Simmons big bear hugs in the bars, the times Gardo read The Iliad and The Odyssey to the teenage Simmons sitting in a van on a hot August evening in Low Bottom.

Even when Wayne Simmons was a grown man, a college graduate who had left his learning-disabled tag in the dust and was a pro football player wearing a Super Bowl champions ring, he would say to Gardo, just for old times sake, G-Dog, read to me.

Pack93z
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Pack93z
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2010-08-16T23:40:12Z
Another side note.. that opening couple of paragraphs is where I view the 2010 Packers.. can they make that next step towards the Superbowl.. or punch a hole right into the big game.
Greg C.
2010-08-16T23:44:30Z
I knew Simmons was wild, but not that wild. Thanks for the article.

The linebacking corps on that team--Simmons, George Koonce, and Brian Williams--was underrated. All very good players. Too bad Simmons couldn't hold it together for very long.
Zero2Cool
2010-08-17T00:00:58Z
I always liked Simmons, but it was for his fiery play on the field. I didn't know much about his personality. I loved the play against the Vikings. I remember jumping up an yelling 'hell yea slam his ass!'.

The article is good, I liked the part about Barry Bonds, lol.
Pack93z
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2010-08-17T00:09:09Z
We Belong ... can't wait for that moment this season.. we belong here.

This is one moment in handfuls of moments in the 90's that I won't forget.

Quote:

Confidence.

On the 49ers first play, Steve Young, the all-everything quarterback for several seasons, swung a screen pass out to fullback Adam Walker. Wayne Simmons, the fiery linebacker for the Packers, crunched him like beetle three yards behind the line of scrimmage, and sent the ball out onto the turf.

[img_r]http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:qs36J24wn6WgfM:http://o-dsports.com/media/images/pros/600_RIceNewsome.JPG&t=1[/img_r] Cornerback Craig Newsome then made the two most important plays of that game, plays that brought a level of pride among all in Packer Nation that day. First of all, he picked up the ball and ran 31 yards into the end zone, putting the Packers up 7-0 in a hostile environment.

But, perhaps just as important is what he did afterwards, something that doesnt show up in any box score: Craig Newsome slowed to a halt in the endzone, put his hands on his hips, and looked up at the crowd and the scoreboard. He didnt dance. He didnt taunt. He didnt even strut around or do some hand jive with his teammates.

He stood proud, tough, strong in the end zone, then made his way back to the sideline.

At that moment, Packer fans, who had moments before been fretting about whether or not the Packers were going to be able to come back in this game, felt the swell of pride and confidence. This was not the same team that had bent to the greater powers as in past years, content to beat the poorer teams but unable to beat the elite.

Craig Newsome made a loud, clear statement, and the entire NFL took note: The Green Bay Packers BELONG now. This isnt a quirk or an accident, this isnt a charmed team or a string of good luck. The Packers had the swagger to go with the glitter, the confidence to go with the excitement.

From this point forward, if you slap us in the face, we will bust you in the chops.

The rest of the game was a battle of heavyweights, with the Packers seemingly making every play that they needed to along the way, harassing Young, memorably pancaking tight end Brent Jones repeatedly, and holding the 49ers to but a field goal in the first half.

The Packers dominated that game against the defending champs, with only a late TD by the 49ers making the score look as close as 27-17 can. True, the Packers did travel to Dallas the next week and lost the NFC Championship game in another epic battle, 38-27, in which the Packers actually led going into the fourth quarter. All that was proved was that the Cowboys merely outlasted the Packers, instead of purely beating them, and the Packers were now equals.

The Packers were no longer awed by the team across the line of scrimmage. When that game was over, even Troy Aikman admitted that the better team didnt win that day.

The end result is that the Green Bay Packers believed that they were among the elite that day, starting with a fumble return by a corner who made the play and acted like thats exactly what he expected to happen.

As the present-day Packers enter their fourth year under the Ted Thompson regime (and the third under head coach Mike McCarthy), there are a lot of parallels that can be made between that 1994 team and the team that went deep into the playoffs last year. 1995 and 2008 are both watershed years, with both teams losing a cornerstone player that many dont believe can be replaced. Both teams come in with as many doubts as they do hopes for infamy.

This is the year that we need to see another Newsome make a play and tell the Giants, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, and yes, the Cowboys, that the Packers are more than a one-year wonder or a team riding on the coattails of a now-departed superstar.

No, it doesnt mean we need a "Playmaker". We need more guys like Craig Newsome, a "Player that makes Plays", especially when going against the elite competition in the league. Lets hope that the fade-outs we witnessed when playing teams like the Cowboys and the Giants, in must-win situations, are replaced by well-executed plays by men who believe that they, too, BELONG.

Zero2Cool
2010-08-17T00:19:25Z
I 245'd you.

Quote:

The Packers were no longer awed by the team across the line of scrimmage. When that game was over, even Troy Aikman admitted that the better team didnt win that day.



Wow, that surprises me.
Pack93z
  • Pack93z
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2010-08-17T00:26:23Z
"Zero2Cool" wrote:

I 245'd you.



For which part.. link or the final loss.. lol.

Anyway.. the moment where it is evident that we belong at the top of the NFL heap.

Btw.. what are you up to.. a buck 40 or so.. add some bulk before the 245 activity. lol. 😉
DakotaT
2010-08-17T00:35:22Z
What I loved about Simmons playing the Niners was that he would take Brent Jones out of the game simply by kicking his ass at the line of scrimmage.

If it weren't for the non call fumble by Rice years later, we would have totally dominated that team from that game forward. Niner fans don't like us much.
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