To be assured more playing time, Nason Simmons needed to put on large amounts of weight in a short amount of time.
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound senior offensive tackle started last season playing tight end for Cherokee with his weight in the vicinity of 210 and 220 pounds.
Cherokee’s offense was not designed for tight ends. Simmons would be in the game for only four plays and it wasn’t enough to utilize his talents. Knowing that, the coaching staff wanted to turn him into a lineman. He agreed and said he was game about the change of position.
After playing tight end in last year’s season opener, Simmons began making the transition to the offensive line – both on and off the field.
“I had to gain a lot of weight,” Simmons said. “I ate more than I usually do. I shot up from 220 to 260 in about a month, and it was hard adjusting to that weight. It was hard on my back.”
Instead of “eating like a rabbit” as he would phrase it, Simmons got to enjoy a lot of food. A few of his top choices included peanut butter bagels, meat lovers pizza, steak and lots of mashed potatoes.
The added weight was also due to muscle mass. When he lifted weights in the offseason, Simmons did multiple repetitions with less weight. During football, it was the other way around.
Another contributor was his genetics.
“His parents were big folks,” Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said. “I know they were college athletes. His dad is about 6-5, 6-6, and his mom was tall as well. So I think genetics was a part of it. He’s 295 and doesn’t look fat at all. He’s still a basketball player and carries it well.”
Packing on the pounds also came with minor health concerns.
His body mass index also went up along with his weight and said he was classified as obese. He needed to see a chiropractor because of the strain that the extra weight was putting on his back.
Despite getting heavier and heavier, his footwork never wavered and continued to improve.
On the field, Simmons’ had to learn the offensive line playbook in a short amount of time. Hand placement was crucial along with reading defensive linemen and knowing their tendencies.
It took him a couple of games for Simmons to get acclimated but eventually settled into his new role. He had roughly 15 pancake blocks and was graded at an 88 percent pass protection rate in leading the Warriors to the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs.
He also won awards for Most Physical Lineman and was selected as the Offensive Player of the Week for Cherokee County following Cherokee’s win over Woodstock.
“I was bigger than everyone and I was more physical, so I had the physical aspect already,” Simmons said. “It was more the footwork and technique and getting my upper body stronger because I was weaker than all the other offensive linemen.”
Now that he is a lineman, Simmons has already received an offer from South Florida and is also considering Liberty, Wake Forest, Missouri, South Alabama and Gardner-Webb.