Can nothing stop him?

Lance Lysowski

A month after breaking his leg, Monte Simmons is back on the field hungrier than ever.

Monte Simmons, senior defensive lineman, is stubborn.

Opposing teams block Simmons with two players, but he continues to fight for a sack or tackle. When coaches tell him to sit plays out during practice to rest, Simmons wants to keep playing. When people tell the senior he cannot do something, he does it anyway.

So when a broken leg stood in his way, the 226-pound lineman fought to recover from the injury at all costs.

On Sept. 2, against Murray State, Simmons broke his left fibula after recording two sacks.

As the 6-foot-3 All-Mid-American Conference player lay on the field, he knew his leg was broken. He attempted to lift himself off the ground but couldn’t. As trainers walked him off the field, disappointment filled the senior’s head.

“What really got to me wasn’t the pain, it was the situation,” Simmons said. “I felt like I was letting my team down. I wasn’t going to be there to help my team as much as I felt like I should have been. If you saw me on the sidelines, I was pounding everything I could get my hands on.”

The following day, Simmons had X-rays taken and his fear had become a reality. He was going to miss at least a month with a broken left fibula. While the break occurred to a non-weight bearing bone, he couldn’t believe he suffered the injury in his senior season, on senior day.

Once Simmons realized that he had the capability to rehab and recover, he shook the grief that rattled him that day.

“Then, it just hit me that everything happens for a reason,” Simmons said. “I’m too blessed to be stressed, and I stole that from my twin sister. God has blessed me with the capability to get back as fast as I have and do the things I can do, so there is no reason for me to be down and all upset about things like this. There’s always good sunshine on the other side.”

For the first week of rehab, Simmons’s left leg was concealed in a cast. Trainers informed him he was only allowed to move his foot in the cast and he could not walk on the leg.

Simmons, being stubborn, took advantage of both.

He moved his foot nonstop for the first week and attempted to walk on the leg. For three weeks, the senior worked tirelessly with assistant athletic trainer Pam Long.

Long worked with the stubborn lineman with rubber bands to test resistance, while Simmons was told to ice his leg constantly.

During the week of Sept. 27, the leg was feeling better. The X-ray showed that his left leg was healed.

Simmons asked Long if he could begin running. While he was not cleared to do so, he didn’t listen and ran with the pain.

When the Flashes traveled to Miami on Oct. 2, Simmons urged the coaching staff to allow him to dress for the game. While hesitant, they agreed. Long allowed Simmons to stand on the sidelines, but she insisted on hiding his helmet.

Simmons was being stubborn and frustrated, but he concurred.

“I did it out of respect for her,” Simmons said. “I knew it was coming. She’s doing everything she can to get me back on the field to play. I obeyed her rule, but it was frustrating.

“I am more stubborn than a horse. If there is anything I can do for the team on the field, I will do it. I don’t care. I would have broke two legs that day if it meant for our team to win as many games as we need.”

Kent State coach Doug Martin said Simmons defying odds and returning earlier than expected shows the character of the defensive lineman.

“We’ve been talking to our team since last spring about mental toughness,” Martin said. “Well, Monte Simmons is a classic example of mental toughness because you can’t do that unless you are physically and mentally willing yourself to do it. That’s what football is all about.”

Last weekend, Simmons returned to the game he loves and the teammates he formed bonds with. He only recorded one tackle, but received double teams from opposing linemen and nearly sacked sophomore quarterback Patrick Nicely on multiple occasions.

Simmons’s relentless ability to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket will be on display for the rest of the season. While the leg is discomforting and teammates insist Simmons occasionally limps, he refuses to let anyone tell him that his leg is not fully healed.

“I love this sport, I love this game and I love this team,” Simmons said. “Every day is a blessing to be out here and play for this team and my teammates. It’s just great.”

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].