Mississippi State’s season begins next Saturday when Southern Alabama visits Starkville. However, the Bulldogs will be without freshman defensive end Jeffery Simmons, who is expected to make an immediate impact for Dan Mullen’s defense.
If you haven’t heard by now, Simmons was suspended one game by Mississippi State for a punching a woman after a video of the incident was released in March. In the video, Simmons is seen unleashing a flurry of punches on a woman, who is lying on her back attempting to defend herself from the blows, in a matter of three to five seconds.
It was violent. It was inappropriate. It was irresponsible.
According to reports, Simmons was attempting to defend his sister after the victim made comments about their deceased nephews. He released an apology to the victim and her family shortly after the video was released. However, as accurate as those reports may be, and as sincere as his apology probably is, nothing makes his actions excusable.
Other than the one game suspension, Mississippi State announced that Simmons will undergo counseling by school personnel.
The announcement of the punishment sparked a wave of harsh media criticism toward Head Coach Dan Mullen’s, Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and Mississippi State as an institution. Many didn’t see a one-game suspension as a formidable repercussion for assaulting a woman.
Countless articles and posts can be found from multiple sources condemning the “lack of action” Mississippi State officials took by suspending Simmons only one game. However, what you’ll struggle to find is mention of the counseling requirement MSU placed on Simmons. You won’t find too many pieces talking about all the good things the community leaders in his town had to say about him, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone wishing Mr. Simmons well as he attempts to become a better man after a heinous act of violence.
To reiterate, nothing that can or will be done will make Simmons’ actions acceptable. Violence of any kind is reprehensible. However, let’s not forget that Simmons is a human being, too. Someone that lashes out in the way he did absolutely deserves punishment, but that person also needs help. That’s exactly what Mississippi State, Mullen’s, and Stricklin are trying to provide.
What if Mississippi State decided not to admit Simmons? As a five-star recruit, another school is bound to pick him up. Of course, that school may provide punishment that could be less-than, equal to or greater than the one he’s already been handed, but the odds are good that we’d be right back here debating the appropriateness of his punishment. There’s also a slim chance that Simmons wouldn’t be picked up by another team. Then what happens? He stays at home, a judge gives him a fine, and he probably doesn’t get the kind of help an institution like MSU can provide.
I’m happy that Simmons will be receiving help under the guidance and structure of Mississippi State State’s football program. The appropriateness of a one-game suspension can be argued for days, but that’s not where the focus should lie in this situation. The focus should be on the young, 19-year-old student-athlete who has apologized and admitted his mistake and has been put in a position to improve his life and learn how to treat others with respect. If another incident occurs I hope Mullen’s comes down much, much harder on Simmons. Until that happens, though, let’s give Simmons a chance to prove that he can turn things around.
E-mail Evan at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.
Picture By Mississippi State University [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons