Lessons learned, success earned

A first-year quarterback, senior Lamar Simmons has led Parkville to a 6-0 record.


It was the late-evening studying in his bedroom through which Lamar Simmons learned that patience and persistence could lead to fulfilled potential.

That's when Steve Simmons and his 9-year-old son "would get a little night light out and be on the floor, reading, writing and doing math," said the elder Simmons.

"A lot of homework was coming home, but math was the big thing," said Lamar Simmons, who would try in vain to prematurely end the homework sessions. "Just when I thought we were done, my father would make me do extra problems. There were a lot of hard moments, but he never allowed me to just quit. My father would always keep challenging me so I would get better at it."

Simmons developed a mathematical mind - "an appreciation for the X's' and O's of things," his father said. "And once he finally got it, he just took the ball and ran with it."

They same can be said of Simmons on Parkville's unbeaten football team. As a first-year quarterback, the senior has the Knights poised to achieve their best season in school history.

At 5-0 in Baltimore County's 4A-3A League and 6-0 overall, the Knights are on pace to return to the Class 4A North regional playoffs. Last season, Parkville went 6-5 and earned the program's first-ever postseason berth.

A victory Friday night at league rival Perry Hall (5-0, 6-0), a team Parkville split with last season, would match the school's single-season mark for wins (7-3 in 1999) and give the Knights the inside track toward their first-ever county title.

"Knowing the history of where we've been in the past and where we are right now, and the fact that I got to finally play quarterback my senior year - it's hard to believe all of this is happening sometimes," said Lamar, 17, who played organized football just once - at 5 - prior to high school.

"All of my teachers congratulate me. They're patting you on the back like, `Good job,' " said Simmons, a 5-foot-8, 170-pounder. "But it's a long season and we're just trying to get better and better each week. The key is to stay focused and keep winning."

A B student as an advanced placement honors student in Parkville's magnet program, Simmons is a candidate for the U.S. Naval Academy.

Among his courses, Simmons takes advanced placement statistics and calculus III, the latter of which is the equivalent of a second-semester college course.

Simmons spends his down time playing basketball - the sport he has played since he was 5 - and reading poetry by authors ranging from Langston Hughes to Edgar Allan Poe.

"Lamar's maturity separates him from the crowd. He was the only football player to take advantage of evening SAT review sessions, and he and a few other seniors collected school supplies for the homeless," said Karen Berkley, Simmons' statistics instructor and the Knights' statistician. "Lamar's name doesn't dominate the statistics, and his quiet demeanor has kept him out of the spotlight, but his leadership is one of the reasons for the team's success."

Simmons earned the job as starting quarterback for the Knights following three seasons of quiet waiting. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, Simmons played on junior varsity teams that went 5-5 and 1-9 before rising to the varsity as a junior to play defensive back and as a reserve quarterback and running back.

Simmons enjoyed a brief start at quarterback for the first half of a victory over Perry Hall last season, when he rushed for one score and threw for another. In the second half, however, first-year coach John Marquette returned the position to Andreas Visilias as he did for the remainder of the season.

Simmons said he was hurt by the move, but he earned Marquette's respect for keeping his feelings to himself.

"Lamar's the consummate team player and a silent leader. I realized that at the end of last year, Lamar felt that he didn't have a place on the team, so I went to him and told him that I needed him to come back and be `the man' next year," Marquette said. "I told Lamar that I knew he had it in him, and that I wanted him to work hard and to come back and to be my quarterback. I knew what kind of player he was - the kind who sets a goal and achieves it. I knew that if he did that, it was going to happen."

Simmons participated in indoor and outdoor track, competing in a variety of field and speed-oriented events. He dedicated himself to a grueling weight training regimen, attended a quarterbacks' camp and reported to the first day of practice a stronger, faster and smarter player.

Simmons' bench-press rose to 275 pounds from around 225, and his speed in the 40-yard dash dropped to 4.4 seconds from above 4.7. In six games, Simmons' statistics are modest at best: 19-for-34 passing (56 percent) for 364 yards and four touchdowns and only one interception. He's rushed for two scores.

But the numbers are deceiving. Simmons' field sense, vision and mobility make him an elusive target and a threat to burst free for a long run at any time. He's also an accurate passer.

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