One would be forgiven if they thought Tyler Lee senior Lanthony Simmons had just won a prizefight or wrestling match.
There he was, grinning from ear to ear, with a glistening metallic belt draped over his shoulder.
But this wasn’t the golden gloves or WWE.
This was football and Simmons was the “Ball Out” belt recipient for his play Saturday in the win over Corsicana.
“You get it when make a big play or cause a fumble or interception,” Simmons said on receiving the belt.
Well then, check, check and check.
In Robert E. Lee’s 42-15 win, Simmons scored two two-point conversions, forced a fumble and made a game-changing interception. He also had three quarterback pressures and a sack.
And this was just in Week 2. Simmons was on course to win the belt for his play in Week 1, too. Teammate Elliott Davison, who was Week 1's Ball Out belt recipient, intercepted a two-point pass attempt, which turned out to be the difference in a 29-27 win over Marshall.
Before he did that, Simmons had produced six tackles, had a sack and forced a fumble. He also ran in the two-point conversion in the first half, which necessitated Davison’s interception of Marshall’s two-point try in the second half.
“He is the MVP of our team right now,” Lee coach Kurt Traylor said of Simmons. “On both sides of the ball he’s a player and I am glad he’s on my team.”
Simmons is taking advantage of being on the field period after an injury cut his junior season short after six games. At the time of his injury, Simmons was leading the Red Raiders with 57 tackles, 28 of those solo stops.
“Last year I really didn’t get to show what I could do,” Simmons said.
A coaching change brought forth a new staff, which prompted the incoming senior linebacker to make a request.
Simmons played both ways in middle school and on the freshmen team, juggling running back and receiver responsibilities while also playing linebacker.
“I asked if I could try out for running back, too. I felt I could produce on the offensive side, too,” Simmons said. “I like hitting people. I like to score, too. I like both.”
Through two games, he has done both.
After seeing Simmons score against Marshall, he would no longer have the surprise factor on two-point conversion tries. Simmons forced his way into the end zone anyway, twice.
His biggest contribution came in the final minutes of the third quarter. Lee had just turned the ball over. Corsicana, minutes before, had scored to make it 30-15, and now had possession with a chance to make it a one-possession game. Corsicana drove to the 20, but on first-and-10, what looked like a wide-open touchdown pass turned into a turnover because of Simmons hustle.
“I had a look back and saw the dude wide open in the end zone, so I just ran and tried to get the ball, and I did,” Simmons said. “We came out and just worked hard and we expect things like that to happen. If you give great effort, those things will happen.”
The Red Raiders started 2-0 last year before dropping eight in a row, beginning with a seven-point loss to Nacogdoches at home.
Lee faces Nacogdoches on Friday in the rematch at 7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium.
“We want it bad. We remember what happened last year and we are trying to not let that happen this year,” Simmons said. “Last year, we didn’t finish. We are trying to make a statement.”