Photo by Tony Gonzales
by Eddie Paskal
Football, like everything else in the world, is subject to change and adaptation. The game has become quicker, more spread out and teams now need to game plan on how to stop the quarterback from utilizing their legs as well as their throwing ability.
Some fans have expressed concern that the game they have come to know and love is changing into a gentler version of itself - a more delicate game based on finesse, and one which shies away from the raw physicality that brought the sport immense popularity is at its onset.
Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims is the antithesis of that sentiment. Listed at 6'2" and 310 pounds, Sims does not shy away from contact in the trenches. In fact, he encourages it.
When asked what kind of football he enjoys playing and what suits his skill set, the answer comes quickly and without hesitation from the sixth year pro out of Auburn: physical.
Sims sits at a table in the Raiders Alameda headquarters. He speaks deliberately, each word carefully chosen, without a word wasted.
"Running the ball and stopping the run, that's the kind of football I'm used to," says Sims. "I've been pretty much playing those run-downs tough every year. It's been that way for a while."
The hardnosed play that Sims has brought to the defensive line of the improved Raiders team is nothing new for the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native.
|DT Pat Sims gets after the Steelers QB. Photo by Tony Gonzales|
The youngest of 10 children, Sims was a two-sport athlete, playing both basketball and football in his South Florida prep days. In his junior year at Dillard High School, he helped lead his basketball team to a state championship. As a senior, he earned Florida Class 5A all-state honors.
After an impressive career in high school, Sims was recruited to play football at Auburn University and traded in the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale for the raucous confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
He was a redshirt freshman with the Tigers when they won the National Championship in 2004 and did not play the following year in 2005.
However, he strapped on the pads again in 2006 and came back in a big way for the Tigers. In his first game against Washington State, Sims registered three tackles, half a sack and forced a fumble. He played in all 13 games for Auburn that year and improved upon his statistics in 2007, recording 37 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.
At the conclusion of the 2007 season, Sims decided to take his talents to the next level and declared for the NFL draft. He was picked in the third round, 77th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
The able-bodied Sims spent the first five years of his career with Cincinnati before Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie brought him to Oakland to help bolster the Silver and Black's new look defense under Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver.
Transitioning to a team across the country and one that plays a different defensive scheme can be a challenging obstacle. However, Sims has taken the adjustment in stride.
"It's different," he says. "I'm a grown man, so you just have to adjust to the new system and the different things that go on here. It's nothing major. At the end of the day, you have to be a grown man about the situation and you just have to adapt to it."
When a player is listed at 310 pounds, quickness and athleticism are typically not the first adjectives that come to mind when describing their game, but Sims possesses the nimble feet and quickness rarely associated with a man of his size.
"What I like about Pat, is when Pat plays within his technique, he can be dominant up front," Tarver said when describing his defensive tackle. "When he leads with his hands, he's strong enough and quick enough to impact both run and pass plays."
By nature, defensive tackle isn't a "glamorous" position. It's not a position that produces lofty numbers like defensive end or spectacular plays shown on highlight reels like cornerback. In fact, most times if Sims does his job correctly, a teammate of his will record a tackle, not him. However, staying out of the spotlight suits Pat just fine.
"It's football," says Sims. "I've been playing this position for a very long time so I'm not really worried about getting any recognition. It's just about going out there and doing my job and having fun with my team. That's all it boils down to, just enjoying football with my teammates."
Playing football in the National Football League is more than a 9-5 job. There is always practice to go to, treatment to receive and film to watch and dissect to prepare for the upcoming game. Especially during the season, when there is always an opponent to prepare for the following Sunday, down time can be precious and hard to find.
When he is not at the facility, Sims likes to take his mind off of football and focus on relaxing and resting his body.
"In the spare time I do have, I relax, get massages," Sims continues, "I talk to my kids since they're not up here all the time. I pretty much just relax at the house."
Come Sunday, Sims is ready to once again line up in the trenches for the Raiders, especially when the team is playing at home at O.Co Coliseum.
"The fans are crazy," he says with a big smile on his face. "The fans are different out here, very crazy. I like our fans, they give you a lot of energy."
Sims has transitioned well into Tarver's defense and seems to be enjoying his time in Northern California.
When asked what the biggest difference between Ohio and the Bay Area is, Sims chuckles and bashfully says, "I'm not freezing, that's the big difference. The weather is totally different in Cincinnati…we've got pretty good weather out here."