74.4 F
Mobile
65.4 F
Huntsville
69 F
Birmingham
58.1 F
Montgomery

Sims ready to add fairy tale ending to college football’s most inspiring story of 2014

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had a career game against Florida
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had a career game against Florida

After Alabama’s 2014 A-Day spring game, a disappointed fan approached Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“Some little 10-year-old boy came up to me after the spring game and said, ‘Do we have a quarterback other than Blake Sims?’” Saban recalls.

Sims completed 8-of-25 for 76 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions during A-Day. Recently hired Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin didn’t yet understand what he had in Sims, and wasn’t able to accentuate his strengths with his play-calling. His performance was less than thrilling after a spring of hype and positive mentions.

But Saban didn’t have doubts.

“I said [to the kid], ‘We didn’t really do what Blake can do in the game, and I have a lot of confidence that he can do a lot of good things for us,’” Saban said.

As Alabama prepares for its inaugural semifinal matchup in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State on New Year’s Day, the team has returned to practice, led by its starting quarterback who’s had a season that even his early advocates would likely admit has exceeded almost every expectation.

Sims finished the regular season with a 12-1 record as a starter, 3,250 yards passing and 26 passing touchdowns, along with 321 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

Prior to 2014, he was a perennial backup, playing mostly on the scout team for three years, then moving to running back, and then back to quarterback after another quarterback transferred. He became the second team quarterback, worked hard, and won the job.

“Blake is an inspirational guy, with the way he plays, the way he competes. I think a lot of players have respect for him for the perseverance that he showed here,” Saban said. “We’re talking about a guy that not many people thought could play quarterback at Alabama.

“When you look at what he really accomplished, based on all the perseverance that he had — a lot of people would have thrown in the towel, transferred, gone some place else, done something else.”

Sims had rough outings against Ole Miss, Arkansas, and even in the first half of the Iron Bowl game against Auburn, but he has played well ever since, and has always rebounded and recovered after adversity. Saban and Kiffin knew he would experience some growing pains, but their confidence in him has never been higher.

Sims has set the Alabama single-season passing yardage record this year, and ran an offense that set the all-time total offense record in a single season at Alabama. He is only the second Alabama quarterback to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. He may not be in anyone’s first round NFL mock draft, nor do many expect him to star in the NFL, but it wouldn’t be the first time he has overcome expectations.

Headed into the playoff, Saban asked, “What does everybody want the legacy of this team to be?”

This season’s team has been praised by Saban for its chemistry. He mentions its high-character and that everyone gets along with a stark absence of “energy vampires,” his favorite term to describe selfish players.

Sims has been a catalyst in fostering that chemistry. At the team’s season award ceremony, he was named the Tide’s most inspirational player, which is a player-voted award given to the individual who has the greatest impact on the whole team by his attitude, as well as his performance.

“It meant a lot,” Sims said after winning the award. “It lets me know that my team really believes in the words that I say, they trust me 100 percent. I’m just glad that I can be a leader for this team.”

But even with the numbers he’s amassed, Sims said he hasn’t exceeded his own expectations for this season. He hasn’t thought about his legacy and won’t until the games are done. Right now, he’s focused on winning the next game.

Regardless of the results in the College Football Playoff, the fifth-year senior will have beaten Auburn and LSU, and won the SEC Championship. He will be on to the next level, whether that’s the NFL or something else.

Before the game, he will join safety Landon Collins, fullback Jalston Fowler and wide receiver Amari Cooper and put his hands and cleats into wet cement behind Denny Chimes, joining an impressive list of permanent team captains.

That anonymous 10-year-old boy who saw Sims’ dismal A-Day performance will be able to return to campus and visit the permanent reminder of his starting quarterback.

Don’t miss out!  Subscribe today to have Alabama’s leading headlines delivered to your inbox.