© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
As the current defensive back for Arizona State University, Shamari Simmons has faithfully traced his father’s path, who was once a defensive back at Auburn.
Whenever Simmons steps onto the field, he closely emulates his father’s style of play. Except for the team logo represented on their jerseys, the ‘Simmons’ label on their backs makes them almost indistinguishable from one another.
“My dad used to be a safety (in Alabama) at the old high school,” Simmons said. “He was a great All-American and he went to Auburn. So growing up (I) always wanted to be just like him, filling his shoes.”
The only staggering difference between the two was their journeys in finding their footing on Division I grass. It was not as easy for the ASU defensive back as it once was for his father.
Contrary to the path he grew up to idolize, the 6-foot-2 senior did not have an abundance of college offers out of high school, despite his successful career with Central High School of Clay County in Ashland, Alabama.
“My background really wasn’t like (my fathers),” Simmons said. “Coming out of high school, my senior year we won a state championship and stuff like that, but I didn’t really have many offers.”
The talented player doubled up as both a safety and wide receiver for the Volunteers. Over the course of his four years, he accumulated numerous accolades for the team including a 2018 State Championship MVP, a Best Go-To Receiver award and a 2016 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Despite possessing a versatile skill set on the field that encompassed both offensive and defensive abilities, the young star couldn’t secure any offers beyond the junior college level.
For Simmons, the community college route was better than nothing.
A winding road to success
Out of Ashland, Simmons embarked on his journey as a defensive back with the Blue Dragons at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
As a 180 pounded redshirt freshman, Simmons recorded 15 solo tackles, averaging five per game during the Blue Dragons’ 2020 season.
Simmons and the team went 8-0 overall and beat the Snow College Badgers 29-27 to clinch the 2020 NJCAA Championship where he recorded three solo tackles on the night.
After initial success with the JUCO route, the opportunity arose for Simmons to step into some bigger shoes as he moved on to play for the Austin Peay Governors in Clarksville, Texas at the start of its 2021 season. The Governors are a Division I subdivision college in the Ohio Valley Conference.
He had taken a significant stride toward reaching the prestigious Division I conference and as a bonus, was a bit closer to his hometown in Alabama.
At Austin Peay, Simmons played in 11 games during the 2021 season, starting in nine. He recorded a career high of 11 tackles against Ole Miss and earned an OVC Defensive Player of the Week nod.
For the young player out of Ashland, the doors were beginning to open.
He was kicking the doors open.
In his final year with the Governors, he was All-ASUN Conference while simultaneously landing a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.
He successfully turned heads a drew attention on his long standing talents.
“Then, that’s how I got here,” Simmons said
With two years of eligibility left, the junior transferred to ASU. He finally made it to Division I – just like his dad.
In four games with the Sun Devils, the redshirt senior has already recorded 17 solo tackles, adding six assists and one sack.
“It has been nothing but a blessing,” Simmons said. “This past week or two, I’ve been going through a lot but I’m just blessed to be here. I know a lot of people around would die to be in my shoes. So I just go hard everyday.”
The beginning of an alter ego
Before I knew anything about Simmons’ impeccable background, I knew about his social media presence – specifically on the platform X (formerly Twitter).
Something about his profile in stood out to me when I was doing my preseason research.
Mostly, it was the fact that his X name was not Shamari Simmons, but ‘Hood Hero.’
Naturally, I had questions.
“It was really just me (in) high school being a little kid and making it, then once I grew up, it just stuck with everybody,” Simmons said. “It doesn’t mean anything bad or anything, just where I’m from, everybody looks up to me. I do everything for my community.”
This alter ego is a blend of the persona he developed while growing up in his neighborhood mixed with his commitment to supporting that very community.
The neighborhood made him who he is, so why would he shy away from that?
He never saw any problem with the way he carried himself. The issue was only brought to the forefront when a coach cautioned him about being too assertive with his traits while he was sending recruiting film to coaches.
“Man, you can’t be hood hero up there, it’s going to turn college coaches away,” read a text sent to Simmons.
With the name of the sender blurred, Simmons shared a screenshot of this text to social media alongside his announcement of committing to ASU.
Proof that he does not have to change anything about himself in order to find success. If anybody wants him, they will take him as is.
“To me, when somebody says I can’t do something that just drives me to keep doing it. So once he said that, that has been my name forever,” Simmons said. “You can’t judge me off just my name. If you really want to know me, you’ll get to know me.”
Maintaining your character can be challenging when it is brought into question by others, but Simmons attributes his ability to stay true to himself to confidence.
Confidence that has been within him for a long time.
“When I was a young kid, I used to play basketball a lot (and) when I used to play with older kids, they used to (tell me) I’m too small,” Simmons said.“That really just boosts me playing, when people don’t believe in me, that just makes me play better honestly.”
A hero to his community
Now, Simmons is committed to passing that same message forward to those below him within his community.
The message to embrace your true self, pursue your goals relentlessly, and disregard those who criticize you.
He does this through more than just posts on social media and words through a phone. He does it by actively engaging within his community and dedicatedly contributing to the neighborhood that raised him.
In the small town that he calls home with a population of just under 2,000 people, he hosts hot dog stands, basketball tournaments and even park events with inflatable bounce houses to promote being active.
“I just do a lot for my community because I really like it and enjoy it (and) I feel like kids don’t play like they used to,” Simmons said. “So, every weekend (I) try to start up a big softball tournament, just for little kids.”
A pretty incredible feat for a young man who is already balancing both football and academics half way across the country from his hometown.
All in all, to understand Simmons, you have to watch closely.
He appears quiet and reserved on the outside, but once you get him going it is clear that he is a brightly talented young star with great intentions to back him up.
It may sound cheesy, but there are two different types of people – those who take and those who give.
Although Simmons is fully focused on his football career with aspirations of taking his game to great heights, he puts nothing above giving back to his community – and that is something to be admired.
Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!