The other day, I penned our countdown piece on Fred Biletnikoff, Florida State’s first consensus All-American. Today, at No. 7, we’re discussing the first of just 7 Seminoles to capture consensus All-America honors twice: nose guard Ron Simmons.
Yet another talent harvested from Georgia, Simmons was a huge commitment for the ’Noles to land out of Warner Robins, where he played linebacker. Here’s Bobby Bowden discussing Simmons as the toughest recruit he ever had to sign— as well as Simmons’ incredible impact for the Seminoles.
Bowden would also credit Simmons with turning the program around— when the latter was merely a freshman.
And that’s because Simmons had an immediate impact in Tallahassee. In his very first game, at Southern Miss, he was already starting, and for good reason: he registered 10 tackles, one for loss, and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown just before halftime that resulted in Florida State’s first score en route to a 35-6 thrashing of the Golden Eagles. He was named the national lineman of the week.
Wreaking havoc in the middle, Simmons hit double-digit tackles in the first six games of the season, as well as 14 TFL, punctuated by 5 tackles for loss against North Texas State. That total has only been bettered once in a Florida State game. Simmons finished the 1977 season with a career-high 12 sacks, tied for ninth in FSU history. He also set the program’s single-season record by causing a phenomenal 13 fumbles. Teams just couldn’t handle Simmons, who was a physical specimen, one-on-one and sometimes even two-on-one.
How much of an immediate impact did Simmons have? The Seminoles improved from a 5-6 team in 1976 to a 10-2 squad in 1977, finishing with their first ever AP rank: 14th. The AP recognized Simmons with an All-America honorable mention, and he was a first-team freshman All-American per Football News, which also conferred upon him freshman lineman of the year honors.
Simmons continued his legacy in 1978, replicating his 128 tackles from the year before while posting a career high of 17 against Houston. The season that saw Osceloa and Renegade lead the Seminoles onto the field for the first time included Simmons leading the way by creating a new ceiling for defensive line play. He also raised the floor at Florida State— the ’78 squad had the worst record of any of his four FSU teams, and that was at a respectable 8-3. Remember, prior to Simmons’ arrival, the ’Noles hadn’t had a winning record since 1972. Simmons repeated as an AP All-America honorable mention in 1978, while also earning third-team honors and a first-team Sophomore All-America nod from Football News.
In 1979, Simmons helped author the greatest FSU season to date, turning in a career-high 17 tackles for loss, tied for 15th in the Florida State record book. More than doubling-up their opponents in aggregate scoring (326-160), the Seminoles went undefeated in the regular season before dropping a 24-7 Orange Bowl result to Oklahoma. Still, their No. 6 final ranking was a program best at the time.
Simmons dominated All-America voting, earning consensus All-America honors after being named a first-teamer by the AP, the UPI, Walter Camp, Football News, Kodak, and the American Football Coaches Association. The Sporting News must have taken the football season off, as it named Simmons just an honorable mention.
In his senior season of 1980, Simmons was a key cog on perhaps the best defense in FSU history. They allowed just 103 points all season, a total no Seminole squad has bettered since. Check this out—opponents scored two rushing TDs on the 1980 defense. Two. All season.
And against a brutal schedule, the D was at its best late. And I do mean its best: the 1980 FSU defense did not allow a single fourth-quarter point.
I’m gonna type that again.
The 1980 FSU defense did not allow a single fourth-quarter point.
And that was against a ridiculous schedule. Here are some of the teams they shut out in the fourth quarter, with their end-of-year ranks:
- No. 18 Miami
- No. 7 Nebraska (this was the game in Lincoln when Husker fans gave the Seminoles a standing ovation after the game)
- No. 2 Pitt
- No. 19 Florida (Simmons went 4-0 against UF)
The defense allowed just 21 second-half points all season. But a 10-9 loss to the Hurricanes and another Orange Bowl defeat to the Sooners saw the ’Noles finish at 10-2. Still, FSU’s No. 5 final ranking was another program high.
Simmons again collected consensus All-America honors, securing first-team recognition from the UPI, Walter Camp, The Sporting News, Kodak, and the American Football Coaches Association, as well as a third-team acknowledgment from Football News. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy. The crazy thing about Simmons is that his most productive statistical seasons were his first two, when he wasn’t a consensus All-American, as he battled lower-body injuries later in his career.
Simmons is still fourth at FSU with 25 career sacks, and tied for fourth with 44 tackles for loss. He’s caused more fumbles (17) than any ’Nole ever and is also tied for the program lead in career recoveries (8).
The Cleveland Browns took Simmons in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft, but he really made his name in pro wrestling. He wrestled under both his real name and Faarooq Asaad and is recognized as the first African-American world champion.
In 1986, Simmons was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame, and two years later he became the first Seminole defender to have his number retired. In 2009, Simmons was also enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Below are some highlights of Simmons, in one of the coolest videos we’ve featured.
And yes, everyone at the time knew Ron Simmons was special. There was even a tribute song about him playing on local Tallahassee radio at the time.