Emotional Simmons does it all for Hawks
Freddie Simmons Jr. is a polarizing figure in local sports and he knows that. The three-sport star in football, basketball and track knows all the tricks that opponents have tried and will continue to try on him this upcoming senior season.
Getting inside of Freddie Simmons' head is one way to derail the Bethlehem Catholic star on the athletic fields.
But Simmons also knows that he can't let others dictate his play or how he is perceived.
For all the great moments that Simmons displays in sports, the slip-ups are the poster-board material that haters flaunt.
But the athletic talent that the upcoming senior encompasses is impossible to ignore after a junior season saw him help the football team win a district championship. His presence on the basketball court and his growing talent in track, where he took second in the state in the 300 hurdles, is undeniable as well.
Simmons is a lot of things to many different people, but at the Bethlehem Press, he's this year's Male Athlete of the Year for Bethlehem Catholic.
"I want to be a leader and someone that the younger guys look up to," said the charismatic Simmons. "I know that people have different opinions of me and I take responsibility for that because I've let some of my actions define me to the public.
"But I feel I've matured a lot over the past year. People tend to forget that I'm still a kid. My biggest thing is that I learn from my mistakes and become a better person from it."
Simmons recalled a punch he threw in a football game against Liberty last season that caused him to get ejected from the contest and subsequently suspended him from the following game against Whitehall as a turning point in his mindset.
"I felt like I let everybody down," he said. "I embarrassed my parents, school, coaches and teammates. I felt terrible and after that, I really tried to work on staying level headed playing sports. I just get so emotional sometimes that it gets the best of me."
And that raw emotion may be the only thing that can hold Simmons back from the competition.
He enters this season as one of the top two football recruits in the area, behind Whitehall running back Saquon Barkley, who has committed to Penn State.
Simmons is the area's top wide receiver, with blazing speed and soft hands, which has landed him multiple D-I offers, with Virginia, Rutgers and Wake Forest nestled on his short list for college destinations.
He put up over 700 yards receiving last year on 53 catches and caught 10 touchdowns, as well as returning one kick for a score to land him First-team Lehigh Valley Conference honors as a specialist, as well as honorable mention at wideout.
Becahi went on to defeat Southern Lehigh 27-24 in overtime last fall for the District 11 3A championship to bring a title back to the Hawks storied program, but their 29-27 loss to Berwick in the opening round of the PIAA tournament stoked flames on a fire that the program has heading into this season.
"That was probably the best loss that we could have had last year," said Simmons, who plans on committing to a college after the 2014 football season. "We have a taste of what we want now. When you get to that stage of the playoffs, it's all about execution and experience. I jumped offsides late in that game and it hurt us. I think we all knew we were a better team, but maybe we weren't ready for it just then.
"This year, we have goals of making a run at a state championship and a lot of that comes from the way we lost to Berwick last year. My dad always tells me that if you want something, you got to go get it, and I want to win a state championship for Beca."
That motto is something that Simmons plans to live by his final year at Becahi. He hopes the basketball team can improve upon last year's 12-14 record, which had them advance to districts, but saw them lose to Blue Mountain 70-63 in the District 11 3A consolation game to withhold them from a consecutive trip to the PIAA tournament.
Simmons averaged 10.3 points a game and added six rebounds and two assists per contest in 15 games last season. They weren't all-star caliber numbers, but Simmons was clearly the Hawks most dangerous player on the team.
"The basketball season didn't go the way anybody thought," he said. "I think we have a lot to prove this year and I hope we can make a run at the district title."
Making a run at a state title in track is something he has his eyes set on as well.
After winning three gold medals at the Lehigh Valley Conference championships in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 4x100, he doubled up on three more golds at the District 11 2A championships, taking home top honors in both hurdle events, as well as the 4x400.
Entering the 300 hurdle field at states as an eighth seed, not much was expected of Simmons, who came into the season not expecting much either. Instead, he brought home a silver medal.
"I want to win at anything I compete in," Simmons said, "but I don't think I ever put the effort needed in track to be really great. I think last season showed me what kind of potential I have and it's really motivated me to work harder next spring and try to win that state gold."
There seems to be plenty of motivation on the table for Simmons next season.
Whether it's securing a college scholarship, competing for a state title in football and track, as well as chasing a district championship in basketball, Simmons is not only blessed with athletic talent, but also the competitive ability to reach for these goals at his respective school.
But maybe the biggest motivation Simmons has for his final act is to have people judge him on his last year.
"If there's one thing that I'd tell people, it's not to judge so quickly off what you see, but what you know," he said. "For the people that know the real Freddie, I think it would be hard for them to say negative things about me.
"I know I have to act right for other people to know I'm a good person and I'm trying. But at the end of the day, I have people that support me and Beca supports me and I want to do everything I can to make them proud."