Matt Simms rarely has minced words.
When the Tennessee quarterback arrived, he spoke openly about welcoming competition.
After winning a three-way battle and taking over as the starter heading into last season, he embraced a leadership position and the pressure that came with it as the face of the Vols without ever sounding intimidated by it all.
And when he ultimately lost that job midway through the season, Simms certainly didn’t hide his emotions in a heated postgame media session at South Carolina.
In just a little more than a year since transferring to UT from junior college, Simms has experienced a pretty broad range of highs and lows. And though his role with the Vols has changed significantly throughout that time leading up to his current backup spot behind Tyler Bray, his seemingly open opinions haven’t at all — which might make it hard to question Simms when he claims there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
“Maybe a few people were surprised that I was here (in the offseason), but I wasn’t going around asking people what they thought,” Simms said early in spring camp. “I want my teammates to know that I’ll be here no matter what, whether I’m doing well personally or not. This is a team sport, and it’s about the University of Tennessee and not about me.
“To be honest with you, I feel like I could go anywhere right now and play, but I don’t want to. I want to stay here, and I want to play quarterback at Tennessee. I’m just going to wait until my number is called.”
The Vols made clear before practice resumed that he would be second on their list behind Bray, and based on conversations he had with coach Derek Dooley after the season, that wasn’t breaking news for Simms.
But instead of fleeing campus or pouting, Simms instead helped organize offseason throwing sessions and threw himself into UT’s strength program — earning respect from his teammates for the former and praise from the coaching staff for the latter.
“Without a doubt, he’s a leader on this football team,” quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said. “He’s done a good job, he works his tail off and in the offseason, he was one of the guys that got an MVP for how hard you work. He leads this team.
“You know, everyone looked to him on our offseason workouts and everything. He was working hard, and he’s putting forth the effort to continue to get better, continuing to work hard and do the best he possibly can when he gets his reps.”
Simms might not be getting as many reps as he’s used to lately, thanks mostly to the arrival of early enrollee Justin Worley. Over two scrimmages, Simms has attempted just 23 passes — completing 10 for 107 yards with two interceptions.
That total is six fewer than Worley has to his credit heading into the final week of practice, according to statistics provided by UT, though there could be any number of ways to account for the difference. But regardless of how the snaps are being distributed, Simms publicly pledged long ago to do whatever is asked of him as he waits for a chance to reclaim the job he once held — and he can’t be accused of breaking that vow now.
“I mean some days it’s tough,” Simms said. “You just want to get out there and just play and play and not stop. Hey, we’re young guys, it’s tough. We’ve been playing this game since we were real young, and we just want to get out there and be the guy. Sometimes there’s some bumps in the road and you’ve just got to overcome them.
“I can say one thing, and I’ve been through a lot of adversity and I’m here for my teammates no matter what happens.”
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward