Former Abilene High School football star Herschel Sims is gearing up to represent his hometown once again by playing for ACU this fall.
Sims was born and raised in Abilene and graduated from Abilene High in 2011. He played at Oklahoma State University for a year and was released in the summer of 2012. He then attended Lamar, but quickly transferred to ACU in the middle of the season. Due to NCAA regulations on transfers, Sims had to sit out the 2013 season.
“I’m just ready to play because its been a year and a half since I’ve played in a live football game, but I’m glad that I’m back here in Abilene just because its great being able to be home with my family and friends I grew up with,” Sims said.
Sims’ personal life was put in the spotlight as a freshman running back at OSU when he got into team and legal trouble. Sims was removed from the team after he was charged with two counts of second-degree forgery. Former teammate Jeremiah Tshimanga accused Sims of accessing his banking account and making two transactions worth $700. Sims pleaded not guilty at the time, but the damage had been done.
“The past is the past and all I can do is move forward,” Sims said. “The hardest thing for me was to just stay positive and once I got to Lamar I thought everything would pass but I was miserable and I just have to forgive myself for what happened and move forward.”
Many people in Abilene know and have long supported Sims, including his family and some of his closest friends.
“Being able to play with them and see them on a daily basis is an incredible feeling and to be able to play for my home crowd from high school is a great feeling, so I’m looking forward to that,” Sims said.
After his troubles at OSU, Sims is glad to be back home with a strong support system.
“Having my family there to watch all of my home games is a great feeling as well, knowing they are there supporting me,” Sims said. “I’ve let them down in the past and they’re still there standing behind me 100 percent.”
Sims has his work cut out for him this season as ACU has not only gained a new quarterback for the second year in a row, but has an all around young offense.
“We have to prepare more than we have in the past, especially younger guys,” Sims said. “They’re going to be asked to do things they’re not used to doing. Things like being in film, studying our opponent more, knowing what to do, taking care of the little things.”
The Wildcats played a scrimmage in early August in which Sims showed his progress over the past year, including what would have been a 99-yard touchdown run, had it not been a team exhibition game.
After a year and a half off, some players may be inclined to slack off and get bored, but not Sims. Head Coach Ken Collums says he is back mentally, physically and spiritually stronger and better than ever.
“Herschel will be ultra productive this year. He is a solid person, has a really good knack for the game of football and is very instinctive,” Collums said.
Collums is a firm believer in raising men, not football players, and Sims agrees and reflects that mindset.
“The coaches help tremendously,” Sims said. “For example, at OK State, it’s all about football but here it’s no pass, no play and you actually have to learn, so I’ve learned a lot. Football is not going to last forever, so I got on the right path, took that advice and ran with it.”
The transition from playing at a well-established Big 12 school to an up-and-coming recent Southland Conference member posed its challenges for Sims.
“I’m good now, but before, it was stressful because every day I used to think, ‘I should be in Oklahoma starting right now,’ and now I’m back in Abilene and that was hard for the longest time,” Sims said. “But once I’m back doing what I love, everything goes out the window. Coming back to Abilene and being with my family and friends helped a lot, and I got my mind off of it.”
This October, the Wildcats will take on Southland Conference foe, and Sims’ former home, Lamar, in Abilene.
“I’m excited, hopefully we’ll have a real big crowd and get the adrenaline pumping. It’s going to be fun,” Sims said. “I have two really good friends at Lamar from Oklahoma State who transferred with me and they’re both on the defensive side of the ball so we’ll see.”
When the Wildcats open their season at the Georgia Dome Aug. 27, there will not be a more fitting player to lead the young Wildcat team into its first Div. I season.
“I’m just going to go out there and play the game I love and just do what I do best, and that’s play football,” Sims said.