Backup to top QB in Wisconsin gets a start he only dreamed of, and a trip to the West Coast in April he really anticipates
When you’re the backup to the Wisconsin Gatorade State Player of the Year, the only playing time sophomore quarterback Zach Simons of Xavier (Appleton, Wisconsin) usually got was in mop-up’s of blowouts, and with as good as the Hawks were, it was pretty ample.
That all changed when star starter Matt Ferris injured his back in a 30-20 Wisconsin State Division 3 quarterfinal victory over Seymour. The win meant Xavier qualified for the D3 Final Four.
With Ferris deemed out for the semifinal start, the coaches pulled Simons aside after the Sunday weight training session and broke the news. Zach was starting in the semifinals against Greendale.
“I got a rush of adrenalin,” Zach told NFA Nation. “I always wanted to start. I was excited.”
And was there pressure on Simons?
“I tried to go out there like any other game and do my job – and try and come up with a win,” said the 6-foot, 190-pound Simons, who also started every game at outside linebacker and was named All Conference at that position.
Zach was 7-for-12 passing and led the team on a 65-yard scoring drive, and he had a 16-yard rushing touchdown against Greendale, but the Hawks suffered a 44-20 defeat.
Still, the Xavier faithful got a snapshot of what is to come from their dual-threat quarterback next season.
Dual threat but mostly a runner
Simons’ prowess as a runner resulted in four rushing touchdowns last season to go along with two TDs in the air. The team also lined him up at Wildcat after touchdowns, and he scored six two-point conversions during the playoffs.
Go west young man
Famous 19th Century statesman Horace Greely of New York coined the phrase “go west young man,” because Greely saw the fertile farmland of the west as an ideal place for people willing to work hard for the opportunity to succeed.
Simons will be coming west in April for almost the exact same reasons.
Although he’s been to five NFA camps, Zach’s ability to fulfill his long-term goal of playing quarterback at a Division I level college means he has to sharpen the passing skills portion of his dual-threat abilities.
To do that he will be coming to the West Coast the first week of April to work with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett at The Range in Livermore, Calif. From there ho goes to Seattle to work with NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and Lead Camp Coach JC Boice.
And what do you think is the first thing a young man from a suburb of Green Bay, in the frozen reaches of Eastern Wisconsin, would say about coming out west?
“I can hardly wait to see some warm weather,” mused Zach, who maintains a 3.0 GPA at academically challenging Xavier, named one of the Top 50 Catholic schools in the nation.
And aside from the West Coast weather?
“My dad say’s he (Will Hewlett) is the best NFA quarterback coach. So he felt I should train with him and get some one-on-one work with him. What I’m looking to accomplish is to hone my mechanics and get them solid, improve my coverage reads and really plug into the R4 NFA system.”
Boice, who has worked personally with Simons four times before, likes him a lot and was the one that suggested he come out west to work with Hewlett.
“Zach is another NFA QB that I’m personally VERY excited about. He’s a blue collar tough kid that will give you everything he has. He’s also powerfully explosive both as a runner and passer. He’s fast and strong and plays with attitude. You can’t help but love QBs like that. We (NFA) just need to polish him up. With Zach’s work ethic and talent our job will not be too hard to have him ready for a major breakout year.”
Zach may have never been out west or to California, but his father, Mike Simons has. In fact Mike was a fullback at Merced Junior College.
“I’m really thankful that my dad has put all this time, effort and money in me and my football. Every weekend we work together at gym work, on footwork and gap escapes. Other times I throw to him.”
The baby of the family has an older brother and sister. Jared Simons, a senior offensive lineman and teammate at Xavier this past season, is someone Zach really looks up to.
Sister Lauren Simons played basketball in high school, something Zach also does as a varsity reserve guard at Xavier.
Goals next season
Xavier has won the Eastern Conference title 11 of the past 13 years, been in the playoffs 11-straight years and has won two state championships, so setting goals is no easy task. For Zach it’s pretty simple.
“Lead the conference in completion percentage, passing and rushing yards, win the conference and a state championship.
What Simons has gotten from NFA camps personal workouts with Boice
“The NFA training has definitely helped. It’s a lot about leadership and having faith in yourself and the team to get the job done.”
“With JC, the most important thing I’ve gotten from him is helping me to recognize and read defenses.”
Now, Zach comes to California to work with Hewlett, a quarterback coach that strives to be recognized as the best mechanics coach in the country.
Hewlett is looking forward to working with Simons.
“Zach’s relentless drive and preparation have allowed him to have a successful jumpstart to his career.” Now, we (NFA) have to help him get to the next level.”
Things should be jumping at The Range in early April.
Zach Simons (L) and his buddy and fellow sophomore linebacker Drew Hinkens. Simons started every game at linebacker and made All Conference.