Stevens Sims Jr.: Hungry for success
By: Clarence Dennis
Kansas football’s wide receiver, Steven Sims Jr., is one summer away from his senior season and final go-around with the Jayhawks. Sims’ college football career has been muscled into existence by dedicating his mind and body to making the most of the opportunity to play at Kansas.
A Houston, Texas native, Sims was recruited by Kansas at the end of his senior year of high school in 2014. With limited options and little attention following a strong career at Travis High School in Houston, in which he earned first team all-district honors his senior year, it was encouraging messages from his future head coach on a disappointing plane ride that led Sims to Kansas.
Leaving high school, Sims had offers from McNeese State, Southern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin. Under recruited, Sims took a hopeful visit to the University of Colorado, only to discover after a weekend visit, there was no offer to play in Boulder. A long flight from Denver to Houston just became longer, but little did Sims know that throughout the trip home, Kansas head coach, David Beaty, was flooding Sims’ phone with messages, extending an offer to play in Lawrence.
“When I got home, my mom was like, ‘You didn’t see Coach Beaty’s calls?'” Sims said. “I had just turned my phone off airplane mode, then when he called, I was really excited. That was just a very happy day in my life.”
This happy day in Sims’ life, has led to several smile-worthy performances by number 11 for Beaty and Kansas football. Sims is currently third in all-time career receptions at Kansas (161), fifth in all-time receiving yards (2,047) and has recorded back-to-back seasons with 800+ yards receiving, earning him Big 12 Honorable Mention each year.
Sims, who was an unranked recruit until signing with Kansas, became a two or three-star recruit depending on the list, after pledging to the Jayhawks.
“Sometimes I didn’t know if I was going to get a scholarship and I just kept working, I didn’t let it defeat me and Coach Beaty gave me an opportunity,” Sims said.
An opportunity Sims has capitalized on. Before stepping foot on campus, the junior wide receiver knew little about KU, other than the nationally-known basketball program and a few of his predecessors who took their talents to the NFL, including Super Bowl Champions and former Jayhawks, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Soon enough, Sims would make a name for himself at Kansas, frequently electrifying Memorial Stadium as one of Beaty’s most impressive offensive weapons.
Sims credits his teammates and family in motivating him each day to go harder in practice, wake up for early morning workouts and step up as a leader. A combination of ingredients, leaving Sims more and more improved after each season spent in Lawrence.
“We all push each other, especially the wide receiver’s room,” Sims said. “We push each other every day, we are always competing with each other, even in the “Pop-A-Shot” basketball game in the player lounge.”
Sims is competitive in any area, even while relaxing. Away from the constant grind of playing college football, videogames like Fortnite ignite his competitive spirit. Sims says the competitive culture amongst fellow players in the Kansas locker room is what is readying him for a big senior season and hopefully a future working the job he’s dreamed of since he was a child, playing in the NFL.
Approaching his senior season, Sims recently completed spring practices, preparing to guide his squad as a senior leader next fall. While he is gearing up for one more year at the college level, Sims was able to watch a one of his teammates be drafted in this year’s NFL Draft, in Dorance Armstrong Jr.
“I’m excited for Dorance, he works hard and we have all worked hard, it’s a blessing to see his dreams come true,” Sims said.
Sims describes many of his teammates who have found a place in the NFL as “blue-collar” guys, who are talented and overlooked. Sound familiar? If Sims one day finds himself with an opportunity to play at the next level, it will likely be due to the same patience, perseverance and dedication to improvement that brought him to Kansas.
Demonstrating these qualities has been in integral part of Sims finding his niche at Kansas and making noise on Saturdays. As a member of Beaty’s first recruiting class, Sims has been a part of each moment of the current Kansas football era, experiencing the highs and lows, alongside the coach who didn’t count out the undersized 18-year-old, nearly four years ago.
The good news for the Kansas faithful is that Sims doesn’t plan on stopping now.
“I am going at it like I’ve came at every off season,” Sims said. “This is my last go around, so I can’t take anything for granted.”
Entering his senior season, Sims will carry the same chip on his shoulder that he has since leaving Travis High School. A chip that has already driven him into the Kansas record books, warranted consistent weight room work ethic and culminated into clutch plays, like beating the Texas defense around the edge in 2016, for one of the biggest Kansas plays in recent memory.
Accompanying the chip on Steven Sims Jr.’s shoulder, is the weight of Kansas football fans, hungry for success. Sims is looking forward to the challenge of taking his team to “the next level” this fall. Perhaps the best way to sum up how Sims is approaching the 2018 season, is by following his own advice. When asked what advice he would give under recruited, underrated, even under-sized players leaving high school, Sims lent inspiring instruction.
“Fight, keep working, keep fighting because that’s all you can do, and you can’t look at someone else’s success and compare. You have to take your turn and your opportunity and you have to be ready for it when it comes,” Sims said. “I never knew Coach Beaty was going to give me that call, but I was ready.”
And he is still ready.