Beyond the end zone

Garden City Community College football coach, Jeff Sims talking to his players (KSN photo / Eric Naktin)
Garden City Community College football coach, Jeff Sims talking to his players (KSN photo / Eric Naktin)

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — In his two decades as a football coach, Garden City Community College’s Jeff Sims has made player development his top goal. For some, that means a Division 1 scholarship or even a career in the NFL. But for others it means a second chance and a new direction in life.

Coach Jeff Sims says he didn’t have his opportunities given to him. His father did time in prison and he struggled a lot with academics. But he was given a chance and ended up demonstrating extraordinary personal success, catapulting his players to the highest level.

Today, Coach Sims is known as a talented coach with a special knack for developing players with a challenged past, much like Sims himself.

Garden City Community College football coach, Jeff Sims talking to his players (KSN photo / Eric Naktin)
Garden City Community College football coach, Jeff Sims talking to his players (KSN photo / Eric Naktin)

“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” said Sims. “Because I also remember the same day I was sitting in front of a word processor and I had to write an eight-page, double-spaced paper for college and I’m looking at the word processor and I couldn’t write a paragraph because I didn’t know. When I was in school, I played football, I played sports.”

Sims flunked out of the University of Tulsa but his life was turned around when he was given a chance at Bakersfield College.

“Carl Bowser was my junior college football coach. He was the first person in my life to tell me I’d graduate from college. My coach put me in a structure and made me stay committed to what was important.”

Eventually, Sims earned his master’s, coached high school, has been an assistant coach at a D-1 program and now finds himself in his second year at Garden City Community College, a place he calls ‘Opportunity USA’.

“To me, this is the best place in America to come if you want to make yourself.”

Uprooting themselves and traveling cross-country to open new doors, players often arrive at a Garden City campus they’ve never seen before, all for a chance to play football.

“Most of these guys are first generation college students,” said Sims.

For many it’s one final chance. For Sims, it’s a chance to pay back the guidance once offered to him.

Jayru Campbell
Jayru Campbell

Quarterback Jayru Campbell made the move to Garden City from Detroit after spending time in jail.

“I got in trouble, made mistakes,” said Campbell. “Coming of high school, I was committed to Michigan State University. I had plenty of opportunities to go to Division 1 schools. I had offers as well from Alabama and Notre Dame but I just couldn’t get my act together. I was involved in physical altercations. I got into it with a security guard.”

“Jayru Campbell; if you Google his name and read Google, he’s a bad person,” said Sims. “I’ve been around the guy for a year and a half, and I struggle to find many better people.”

Another example is Lavonte David, now a starting linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He didn’t have the grades to go to a D-1 school. Sims, then the head coach at Fort Scott Community College, took a chance on him.

“Going to a rural area in Ft. Scott, Kansas where I’m the only guy I know. I don’t know a soul out there,” said David. “It was real humbling. I think that whole process helped me become the guy I am today.”

When Sims first met David, he had one shirt to his name. He left with grades and skills that earned him a chance to play for Nebraska, and eventually, the National Football League.

“Going through that whole process — Coach Jeff Sims, Coach Aiden Brown — those guys, you know they turned my whole life around.”

David is one of more than 40 players that Sims has helped prepare for the NFL. But even those that never ended up playing football for a living are making an impact in other ways.

“To me, this is the best place in America to come if you want to make yourself.”
— Coach Jeff Sims

“Steven Ford, when he came to college he didn’t know where South America was,” said Sims. “It wasn’t because he was unintelligent, it was because nobody ever taught him. You know, there are things you aren’t taught, you don’t learn. Now he was taught and he learned and he’s actually a four-year college graduate and works for an aerospace company in Dallas.”

Sims is focused on developing winners – both on the field and in the game of life.

“I love the quote, ‘fall down seven times, get up eight’. That’s the key. Our guys makes mistakes and we’re hard on them, because we believe in them.”

The Broncbusters are 3-0 this year. It’s something to be proud of, but Sims also takes pride in the team’s academic success as well with a 3.17 GPA average.

An interesting note, the program, like a few other junior college schools, reportedly gets roughly 50 calls per day from random players across the country, who want to play for Garden City. In years past, Coach Sims has actually gotten calls from players in jail that eventually wound up making his program.

Comments are closed.