For a long time, Montrose’s Cole Simmons thought about joining some branch of the armed forces, with the added bonus of a chance to continue playing football.
The Indians’ fullback/linebacker made a case for himself as a collegiate-level talent not only during his senior year, but for his whole prep sports career. In his final year, Simmons led Montrose in rushing yards (1,282), touchdowns (19) and tackles (96).
Those stats got the attention of college coaches, including the ones at the United States Merchant Marines Academy.
After a visit last December to the academy in Kings Point, New York, Simmons knew that was the branch he wanted to serve and lace-up for in football. He will join the Mariners team later this year.
“It just felt right to me,” Simmons said. “... Communication was a big factor for me going there. And (the coaches) would talk to me. I just felt wanted.”
Montrose coach Brett Mertens, who instructed Simmons at the varsity level for the last three years, commended Simmons for his leadership, shown during his two years as a team captain and his having a spirit of selflessness.
Simmons never minded where the coaches put him on the field, Mertens said. He spent time at offensive lineman before he was switched to fullback last season.
“He was willing to do anything for the team,” Mertens said. “... He’s a versatile kid. He’s a hard worker and a great teammate.”
Mertens also said, outside of football, Simmons has created a path for success.
“It’s a really good academic school,” the Montrose coach said. “... It’s a great opportunity for him for the rest of his life. It’s going to be a great fit for him. He’s going to be tremendous there on the football side as well.”
It’s a toss-up for Simmons whether he’ll play fullback or linebacker, but he added he’ll be happy wherever the coaches decide.
Simmons hasn’t been solely known for his abilities on the gridiron.
He was also a prolific wrestler for the Indians, qualifying for state three times, winning regionals and finishing as a state runner-up.
Simmons perhaps could have pursued collegiate wrestling, but his first love was and continues to be football.
“I have a passion for (wrestling) still but there’s something different with football that clicks for me,” he said.
It could be because it was one of the first sports he learned to play.
Simmons, who originally grew up in Arizona, moved to Montrose when he was 8 or 9. Following the relocation, he tried out football for the first time, which is when he developed a strong passion for it.
Simmons’ love of the game, which could be seen during his time with the Indians, will be a great asset for the Merchant Marines football team, Mertens said.
“He’ll work hard. He’ll be a great player for them down the road,” said Mertens. “It’s going to be fun to follow his career.”