DETROIT – With the NFL Draft starting Thursday night, there’s a player coming out of that may be familiar to Michiganders.
Michigan State University linebacker Antjuan Simmons might not go in the first round, but he’s still overcome a lot to get to this point.
Simmons was born in Detroit and grew up playing Detroit PAL football.
“I knew by age four or five that I wanted to be an NFL player,” Simmons said.
He’s now on the verge of living out his dream, but he said it’s what happened in between that shaped him into the man he is.
“Sometimes in life -- things will happen that you don’t want to happen,” Simmons said. “Learn to live with it and deal with it.”
When he was 13 years old, his father went to prison after being convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs. It was part of a bigger DEA investigation into a drug ring linked to Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
It was a lot for a teenager to deal with.
“It took me a year and a half to truly understand,” Simmons said. “It would be a minute before my dad could come back home, talk about those feelings and understand them.”
It was a lot for his mother too, who was caring for two young boys on her own.
“I took it one day at a time,” Tawan Simmons said. “I did what I had to do.”
That’s where football came in. It kept the Simmons brothers out of trouble. Antjuan was able to let out some aggression at Pioneer High School and then at Michigan State University.
Antjuan Simmons said he greatest joy was being Michigan twice -- including last year, when he recorded 11 tackles.
Simmons is hoping to make a name for himself in the NFL. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 220 pounds, the linebacker is hoping an NFL team will take a chance. He’ll wait for his name to be called with his entire family. He father is home now and they are forging a new relationship.
“I feel I’ll end up somewhere. I don’t know when, where, how -- don’t know where. It’s exhilarating,” Simmons said. “When I think about it, my palms are sweating. I get excited.”
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