When MSU Coach Mark Dantonio rolled out his depth chart earlier this month, a new name was penciled in as the starter at weak-side linebacker – junior Antjuan Simmons. And the former Pioneer star is ready to take that next step in his Spartan career.
“I’m ready to contribute in any way I can,” said Simmons, in an interview this week with WLAA. “Right now I’m just going out there and giving every play my all and making sure my teammates can trust me and whatever happens, happens. If I’m a starter, great. If not, I will do everything I can to help the team win.”
The bottom line is Simmons is ready anytime, anywhere and anyplace. His time has arrived in East Lansing.
“I’m just a football player who wants to play,” he says. “I will play anywhere they want me to play. You can line me up anywhere. Defense. Special teams. I will play offensive tackle if you want. I just love to play.”
And the 6-foot, 215-pound junior loves playing for the Spartans.
“We have high expectations as a team but right now our only focus is on Tulsa in week one,” he says. “We are going to take each game one at a time.”
Last season as a sophomore, Simmons played in all 13 games and saw action on 284 snaps at linebacker, recording 32 tackles (10 solo, 22 assists). In the team’s opener against Utah State, Simmons tied a career high with seven stops, ranking second among linebackers and tied for second overall on defense.
He also saw time on special teams, including returning two kicks for 46 yards.
As a freshman, Simmons played in all 13 games, making his Spartan debut against Bowling Green. He finished the season with 34 tackles, including a team-leading 10 on special teams (all on kickoffs), along with 1.5 tackles for loss. He tallied a season-high seven stops at No. 11 Ohio State for a season-high 16 production points, leading the linebackers and ranking second on the defense.
His freshman season ended during the final game when he suffered a fractured vertebra while making a tackle during the Holiday Bowl against Washington State. “It was pretty scary,” Simmons said. “Six months of just doing nothing (outside of rehab) was hard.”
Simmons is ready to go now after what he called a good sophomore season in East Lansing. “It was a good second year for me,” Simmons said. “I got to play a little more than my freshman season and I felt like I contributed a little more.”
Transitioning from high school football to a big stage like the Big Ten is a major adjustment for any player – both on and off the field. Simmons took it in stride and slowly started to feel comfortable as a Michigan State Spartan.
“There were times about halfway through my freshman season where I felt a lot more confident in what I was doing,” he says. “And then last season I was comfortable and confident every time I stepped on the field.”
Simmons says his work ethic and play as a freshman helped develop a trust and confidence with his Spartan teammates.
“A lot of it is confidence,” he says. “We have a strong family relationship on the team and it only increased after my first year. You already know a lot of the guys a lot better in your second year and there is more of a team bond and it builds trust out on the field.”
Simmons was selected to the ESPN300 (No. 294), Scout300 (No. 296) and PrepStar350 (No. 305) rankings as one of the best overall prospects in the country. He played linebacker and running back for Coach Jari Brown at Pioneer and was a two-time Detroit Free Press Dream Team selection. He was chosen to USA TODAY’s All-USA Michigan First Team and listed the No. 1 outside linebacker in the state of Michigan and No. 2 in the Midwest by Scout.com.
Antjuan, the son of Antonio and Tawan Simmons, is a human development and family studies major at MSU.