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Jason Simmons
Jason Simmons' coaching climb continues in Carolina
Once disinterested in joining the profession, Carolina's secondary coach is on a fast rise.   
By Myles Simmons Jun 24, 2020

During his 10-year NFL playing career, Jason Simmons never thought he would be a coach. He used to balk at the notion whenever teammates or coaches told him he'd get into the profession. He didn't want to deal with the long hours, he'd say.

But Simmons, now the Panthers' defensive pass game coordinator/secondary coach, dipped his toe into the youth football coaching world when his son was around 9 years old. And that produced a result that frankly made the elder Simmons a little uncomfortable.

"I found myself coaching probably a little bit too hard, where I said, 'You know what? I probably need to deal with a higher level of athlete,'" Simmons recalled with a laugh. "At some point, you kind of hear yourself, you look around, and you're like, 'I'm really trippin' right now.'"

So Simmons got back to football's highest level through a coaching internship with the Packers in 2011 and began climbing the organization's ranks. He stayed on as an administrative assistant with the club until he was promoted to assistant special teams coach in 2015. Three years later, Simmons became Green Bay's secondary coach, and he continued in a similar role under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur in 2019.

"They made me take the steps," Simmons said of his time with the Packers. "I had a ton of roles, and that helped me to appreciate it."

Jason Simmons Packers

So despite his initial reservations about the profession, Simmons became a coach because of how much he missed the gameday experience.

"You can't replicate it," he said. "I was doing decent (in business), but it still didn't have that feeling, that thrill of game day — of guys getting ready, the apprehension of what's about to happen. You can't mimic that. That's what I just wanted to get back and be a part of."

As a player, Simmons entered the league as a Steelers' fifth-round safety out of Arizona State back in 1998. After spending the first four years of his career with Pittsburgh, he played for the Texans from 2002-07. He appeared in 121 games over 10 years, but started only 12, spending much of his time as a special teams contributor.

Simmons believes part of why he stuck around so long as a 5-foot-9, 200-pounder was his work ethic and attention to detail. Those qualities are also why people around him felt he'd make a good coach.

"People see me — I'm not the most daunting doggone figure," Simmons said. "I mean, I'm 5-foot-9, I went to the Combine and I ran a 4.5 (40-yard dash) and I was still able to get 10 years out of the league just based on, I think, knowledge and will — a lot of the same traits that coaches try to put on players.

"I had good coaches that taught me how to study. It wasn't me. They taught me how to study. So they were like, 'If you know that, you almost have an obligation to teach guys behind you.' So I wanted to do it."

One of Simmons' previous coaches was current Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who held the same position with Arizona State when Simmons was a Sun Devils' cornerback in the mid-90s.

"The thing that (Snow) really impressed upon me was detail," Simmons said. "That was the biggest thing, whether it was formation recognition, whether it was technique, always understanding the situation. Everything that was impressed upon us was detail."

Snow remembers Simmons as a hard worker who started as a true freshman.

"Jason was always physical, and tough, and smart," Snow said. "He is the exact same guy as a coach."

Now Snow feels like his former player has the potential to be a defensive coordinator in due time.

"I think the players love him because nothing goes by. If something needs to be said in the room, it's said. So they see how tough he is. He's a really hard worker," Snow said. "Really, I've been even more impressed working with Jason than I was before he came on board."

And for Simmons, one of the appeals of coming to Carolina was the chance to reunite with his college coach.

"A lot of people say, 'What are you doing?' coming off of the NFC Championship game with the Packers, coaching guys that I really respect, and Mike Pettine as a coordinator," Simmons said. "But this was an opportunity not only from a career-advancement position but also an opportunity to get with Coach Snow and continue to learn. So I was excited and happy to be here."

As for the players in his secondary, Simmons likes the youth, speed, and athleticism of the group. Plus, they're not so young that Simmons will look up one day and question his coaching methods.

"You have guys that are young, that are eager to learn, and they have a high-level athletic ability," Simmons said. "As a coach, what more do you want?

"Coach (Matt) Rhule and (general manager) Marty (Hurney), they built this team as a long, fast, physical team. You look at our room, that's just what you see. Now we have to groom them. That's my job and that's (cornerbacks coach) Evan Cooper's job. But just to be able to have that and to be able to mold some of this talent, I'm excited about it."

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