TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –Florida A&M University (FAMU) presented Tallahassee area native Willie Simmons as the 18th full-time head coach in the history of the school’s storied football program on Tuesday morning in the Alfred Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium.
Simmons was greeted by FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson, and Interim Athletic Director Dr. John Eason, along with dignitaries from the FAMU National Alumni Association (Dr. James Moran, First Vice President), the Rattler Boosters (Tommy Mitchell, Executive Director), and the National Rattler “f” Club (Curtis Taylor, President), representatives from the news media, and a large contingent of family, friends, alumni and boosters, many from Gadsden County and nearby Quincy.
A phenomenal prep athlete at nearby Quincy (Fla.) James Shanks High School, before embarking on a stellar collegiate football playing career that featured stints at Clemson University and The Citadel (S.C.), Simmons comes to Florida A&M from Prairie View A&M (Tex.) University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), where he spent the last three seasons (2015-17) as head football coach.
During his tenure at Prairie View A&M, Simmons revived the flagging fortunes of the Panthers, elevating them to prime contender status in the rugged SWAC Western Division, which featured perennial Black College heavyweights, Grambling State and Southern University.
Simmons fashioned a 21-11 overall worksheet, and a 19-6 league record, highlighted by an 8-2 debut campaign in 2015, which included an 8-1 runnerup finish in the Division to eventual division champion Grambling State, after dropping a sizzling 70-54 wild west shootout in the State Fair Classic in Dallas, Texas.
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In 2015, the Panthers were the highest-scoring Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team in the nation in 2015, averaging 44.9 points per game. The Panthers scored at 38 points or more nine times, including three 40-point games, and four 50-point games.
PVAMU also led the SWAC total offense (487.5 ypg/6th NCAA), passing offense (278.0 ypg/15th NCAA), passing efficiency (152.0/10th NCAA), and ranked second in rushing offense (206.5 ypg/21st NCAA).
Considered one of the most creative and innovative offensive minds in the collegiate game today, Simmons took the Prairie View job in December of 2015, after a scintillating run as offensive coordinator at Alcorn (Miss.) State University.
Simmons worked three seasons at Alcorn State (2012-14) under Jay Hopson (now head coach at Southern Miss), and immediately helped initiate a meteoric revival of a proud Braves gridiron program, which had won just two (2) games the previous season.
Starting a true freshman quarterback and without spring practice, the Braves finished with a 4–7 record, highlighted by wins over previous Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champion Grambling State and #1 ranked Alabama A&M.
The 2013 season saw the Braves and Simmons' offense finish 9–3 overall (7–2 in the SWAC) and ranked #5 in the final SBN Black College Football Poll (its highest ranking since 1984).
Alcorn running back Arnold Walker had a career year in 2013, leading the conference in rushing (1,191 yards) and touchdowns (16), becoming the school's all-time leading rusher, and earning SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors. Simmons' offense finished 2013 ranked in the Top 25 nationally in Total Offense, Rushing Offense, and Scoring Offense.
The 2014 campaign was an even better year for Simmons and the Braves, as they won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship over Southern University, as well as being named Black College National Champions.
The Braves offense set many records that season, finishing second nationally in Scoring Offense, 8th in Total Offense, and 4th in Rushing Offense.