Don’t get Isaiah Simmons wrong. Growing up, he dreamed of playing college football, becoming an All-American, winning national championships and having the opportunity to play in the NFL. However, he also dreamed about getting his college degree.
The All-American linebacker did just that on Thursday as he walked across the stage at Littlejohn Coliseum and received his degree from Clemson University.
“This is something that is more important than all those other things,” Simmons said to The Clemson Insider after receiving his degree in Sports Communications. “This will take you all the way through life. Despite all the wins we have had, national championships and ACC Championships, this is the best thing I have got from here by far.”
Simmons was one of 16 members of the Clemson football team to earn his degree on Thursday. Teammates Tremayne Anchrum, Gage Cervenka, Denzel Johnson, Xavier Kelly, Sean Pollard, John Simpson, James Skalski, Chad Smith and K’Von Wallace also receiver their degrees.
“It is just amazing. To see the guys I came in with, we are leaving together as well. So, it has been a long time coming it seems like, but it went by just like that, so it was great to be able to share that moment with them,” Simmons said.
Getting a college education was very important to Simmons and was actually one of the main reasons he decided to come and play for the Tigers.
“Coach (Dabo) Swinney’s graduation rate is so high, how could you not,” he said. “Everything else, that falls into place here, but the graduation rate was very high here and Coach Swinney always expresses to us that you are always a student before you’re an athlete. That was always important to me and my family when I was growing up, so to be able to come here and graduate in under four years was just truly a blessing.”
Everyone knows about Simmons exploits on the football field. The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and the winner on the Butkus Award, led the Tigers with 93 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks from his linebacker position. He also had two interceptions, seven passes broken up and 14 quarterback pressures.
However, his biggest accomplishment isn’t measured by stats. Being a student athlete, playing at a high level and getting his schoolwork done is not an easy task.
“There are summer classes and loading up your fall and spring semesters and just grinding in the workouts,” Simmons said.
“It is hard. It is very hard and very stressful. You have to make sure you are getting your sleep,” he continued. “On an average day you wake and work out around 6:30 in the morning, depending on what your schedule is. You usually have classes from eight to around 1:30. Then you have to go to (team) meetings. The meetings start at two o’clock, practice starts at four o’clock, then you have to eat and take care of your body and by the time you get home it is about nine or 9:30 and then you have to do your school work.
“By the time you are done with that, it is almost eleven o’clock or twelve and then you have to get the rest and start all over again the next day.”
Simmons says the key to being a successful student athlete is being disciplined and knowing what you want in life.
“Sometimes, you have to sacrifice things in the moment for what you want further on in life,” he said. “I would say the biggest thing is sacrifice and with sacrifice, the discipline comes.”
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