Know your Vols - Matt Simms: Junior, quarterback
Genetics are certainly playing some sort of role for Matt Simms.
From father down to gunslinging sons, there's obviously something at work inside a family that's produced enough talent to go three-deep at the most important position on the football field.
But Tennessee's new starter wasn't born reading a playbook, and he also hasn't had the easiest path to a winning a job with the Vols after stops at Louisville and a California junior college. Certainly there are advantages to having a Super Bowl-winner and another current NFL quarterback on speed dial, though the guy responsible for the QB DNA isn't sure exactly how much it might be worth.
"That's a good question," former New York Giants star Phil Simms said by phone this week. "Honestly, sometimes I don't know - I really don't. Of course, I can tell Matthew things, and I'm a genius after the fact. You know, I try to say things, but it's a very fine line.
"I know when my sons get on the phone with me, sometimes I'm sure they're hesitant to call me because they don't want to hear it. And of course, I get mad at myself for not speaking up more. And then, I'll get mad at myself if I know I've crossed the line. So, there are really times that we talk where there's nothing said about football. When I do say things about football - I mean, come on - I try to work them in somehow, very casually."
The eldest Simms still makes his living talking about football on CBS, so totally cutting it out of the conversation seems like a bit of a stretch. And now with his oldest son, Chris, playing in Nashville with the Titans and his youngest preparing for his first start with the Vols on Saturday against UT Martin, there's plenty for the family to chat about.
It's also not the first time a discussion has centered around Tennessee and a Simms, though the well-documented decommitment of Chris in 1999 wasn't exactly a high note for the Vols. Either way, Phil has always held the program in high regard, and he still wound up with a son taking its snaps.
"I'm a fan," he said. "Of course, I saw Tennessee as long as I can remember, and I know football is important to the people down there. I know the program and where it stands with the university, and of course I knew that when Christopher was coming out (of high school). I liked it when he came out, and for fathers of quarterbacks - anybody really, but more at the position of quarterback than any other one of the field - it has to fit.
"The timing of it and everything else, the style, I thought it fit Christopher perfectly when he was coming out. I really feel the same way about Matthew, that the school, where they're at now and the coaching, really from the head coach - I don't know any of them, but all of them, the coordinators, I watch what they do, it does fit him."
And Matt has looked increasingly more comfortable in that system after spending all summer working to improve his knowledge of the offense. It clearly didn't come quickly or easily to him in the spring, and he has admitted on several occasions he was faking his way through those early workouts while also trying to establish himself as a leader for a new set of teammates.
Now he's firmly entrenched at both his position and as one of the spokesmen for his team - a trait that seems to run in the family.
"I'll never forget, my oldest Christopher was playing his first game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they were actually over in Japan," Phil said. "He called, and with the time difference it worked out somehow, and I got on the phone and I said, 'Well, there's nothing I can really say to you because I know they have covered every single point.' He laughed and goes, 'Don't worry, Dad. We've covered it all.' I said, 'Well, good, I'll sit back and watch.'
"It was a really funny conversation we had about it, because I knew what he was going through. I think the life of a quarterback - even in high school, and college, of course - they cover it all. It is an all-encompassing job. Being a college football player, it's a job. But who are we kidding? It's OK, it's the greatest job in the world."
Unlike some other family businesses, the sons don't get to simply inherit dad's job. But he certainly appears to have put them on the right track.