DALLAS – Andre Simmons has turned a “setback into a comeback.”
Simmons was dismissed from Vanderbilt in November of 2011 after he was arrested for armed robbery and burglary charges. But the safety landed on Old Dominion’s roster last fall as a walk-on. He was awarded a scholarship this spring and heads into his junior season as a projected starter and a team captain.
“Andre has been a tremendous success story,” Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said on Wednesday at Conference USA Media Day. “I told him I would give him an opportunity to walk on and prove himself. I’m a firm believer that if people are given an opportunity to turn a setback into a comeback with the proper guidance, they can do it.”
Simmons spent two seasons at Vanderbilt. As a true freshman in 2010, he played sparingly in 10 games as a true freshman. The following year, he was limited to special teams and redshirted.
Later in 2011, days before the Commodores played rival Tennessee, he was one of two suspects arrested for breaking into a Vanderbilt dorm room and stealing approximately $5,000 while holding another student at gunpoint. In March of 2012, the burglary charge was dropped and the armed robbery charge was lowered to theft over $1,000. He also was placed on three years of probation.
A native of Lorton, Va., Simmons and his father, Warren, met with Wilder about joining the Monarchs before the 2012 season.
“Andre came in to see me with his dad, who was in the military and that was very significant,” Wilder said. “He has made an excellent presentation since he has been on our campus and I’m glad he is part of our team.”
Simmons, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, played in nine games and made two starts last year. He made 31 tackles and had one interception and forced a fumble.
He is listed atop the depth chart at free safety for Old Dominion, which began a football program in 2009, enters its first year in the Football Bowl Subdivision and becomes a full-fledged member of C-USA in 2014.
“I think it was a life-changing experience,” Wilder said. “To this point, he has taken what was a very severe setback in his life and turned it into a great comeback story.”
• Dooley connection: Louisiana Tech defensive lineman IK Enemkpali is on his third head coach in five years.
Derek Dooley was his first.
Dooley spent three years at Louisiana Tech before leaving after the 2009 season to take over at Tennessee. He was fired last November after three years and is now the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Enemkpali said Dooley recruited him to Ruston, La., but he hasn’t kept him in touch with his former coach.
“I can’t say that I do,” Enemkpali said. “I watched everything he did at Tennessee. As a freshman, I was real shocked. Up and left – the first coach who recruited me. It was a shock to me.”
Enemkpali, who redshirted in 2009, has been coached by Dooley, Sonny Dykes and now Skip Holtz.
• Big win: Southern Miss coach Todd Monken’s introduction to Middle Tennessee State began 13 years ago.
Monken, then the running backs coach at Louisiana Tech, was on the losing end of the Blue Raiders’ first win over a Division I-A opponent when MTSU blew out the Bulldogs 49-21 in its second season as a member of Division I (now Football Bowl Division).
“They rushed the field after they beat us,” Monken said. “That I remember. You remember losses that sting you a little bit more than you remember a lot of things.”
Monken is in his first year with the Golden Eagles after finishing his second stint as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State. Southern Miss hosts MTSU on Nov. 23.