Tulane’s football staff searched virtually everywhere to find a kicker capable of helping the Green Wave’s unstable special teams.
They found help across the Wilson Center.
Trevor Simms, who recently transferred from West Virginia to play baseball for coach David Pierce, etched himself onto Green Wave memorabilia for years to come when he booted the first kick in Yulman Stadium history through end zone — and even split the uprights.
It was the peak of a whirlwind week. Less than seven days removed from not even entering Tulane’s football locker room, Simms was the focus of a moment Tulane fans had waited nearly 40 years to see.
“It felt really good,” Simms said. “I had a lot of adrenaline going. First college kickoff ever, and you get on that opening of the stadium and the crowd’s going crazy for the very first play of the new stadium. I was able to kick it through the uprights, so it was really exciting.”
Simms’ impact could be even greater if Tulane’s field-goal kicking continues to flounder. Freshman Andrew DiRocco has already missed kicks of 21 and 27 yards this season, costing the Green Wave critical points in red zone situations.
While coach Curtis Johnson said he is sticking with DiRocco for now and declined to even publicly discuss Simms’ potential on field goals, Simms said he’s begun working on his accuracy in case the coaches call his name.
“They’ve hinted towards it (giving him a shot at field goals), but no definite questions,” Simms said. “If DiRocco does his job, he should be able to keep it. If he doesn’t do his job, they may have an opportunity for me to take his spot.”
Regardless of how he’s utilized, the rapid change of circumstances shouldn’t faze Simms. Considering his journey to Tulane, he’s accustomed to adjusting on the fly. Tulane is Simms’ fourth school since 2012, and the Green Wave is his second football program.
And one of the few steady figures during his travails is Pierce, who was named Tulane’s baseball coach in June and originally recruited Simms to pitch for him at Rice in 2011.
But when Pierce left his post as Rice’s pitching coach to become head coach at Sam Houston State before the 2012 season, Simms said he no longer felt comfortable with the Rice baseball staff and transferred to Weatherford College, 30 miles west of Forth Worth, Texas. It was a particularly difficult decision, considering he was offered a full scholarship by Owls football coach David Bailiff — not as a kicker, but to play wide receiver.
Conversations with pro scouts encouraged Simms to stick with baseball, so he left FBS football behind for junior college.
“I left Rice because I actually had just started pitching my senior year of high school, so I needed some development,” Simms said. “When coach Pierce left, they moved an infielder coach as the pitching coach, and I wasn’t really getting any development that I needed, so I left to go get some of the best pitching coaching from Weatherford Junior College under coach (Flint) Wallace.”
As a pitcher and center fielder for the Coyotes, Simms played in 55 games, earning an offer from newly minted Big 12 program West Virginia. In 2014, he played 28 games for the Mountaineers but still wasn’t satisfied.
Meanwhile, with Simms traveling the country in search of the right coaching fit, Pierce recruited his brother, Jason Simms, to pitch at SHSU and helped him become one the Bearkats’ most reliable arms, tossing 184 innings to help reach consecutive NCAA tournaments.
So, with Pierce at Tulane and Trevor Simms searching for a place to spend his final year of baseball eligibility (and possibly get back into football), the choice was obvious.
“The kid wanted to play football and baseball, and he’s ineligible for baseball this year, so it made all of the sense in the world to get him committed 100-percent to football,” Pierce said. “He’s got a golden leg and can kick off and kick field goals. Once he became eligible, it was a no-brainer to at least let him attempt it.”
But as the Green Wave football season ramped up, Simms was still fighting to gain eligibility and catch on to Johnson’s radar. To address the lack of a powerful leg on kickoffs, Johnson used 6-foot-5 defensive end and Nigeria native Ade Aruna in Tulane’s season-opening loss at Tulsa.
While Aruna performed well in the role, he strained his groin and was unable to kick the next week, opening the opportunity for Simms, who was cleared by compliance to play football.
“The baseball coach was bragging about this guy who could play football well,” Johnson said. “I was told he was a receiver, someone else told me he was a quarterback, come to find out he was a kicker. He kicked a couple off and we were like, ‘Wow!’ He finally got eligible and he’s on. I owe the baseball coach one.”
After years of football players contributing to the Green Wave baseball program, the relationship between the teams appears to still be strong, even under new leadership, and could help fill a position of need for a football team working to bounce back from an 0-2 start.
“I just wanted to make CJ aware that he had a good leg on campus,” Pierce said. “So far we have a good working relationship, and this is what it’s about because we are helping the kid out and helping two teams out instead of just one.”