When you think of a basketball player, you typically think of a tall, slender athlete who moves with quickness and ease up and down the court. In some cases, you may think of a giant, someone like Shaq or Dwight Howard, who tower over normal human beings.
But you definitely don’t think of a someone who is 6-foot, 350-pounds when you think of a basketball player. That’s exactly what Tennessee has in their 2019 early signing class, though.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media on Wednesday to discuss his team’s 2019 early signing class, and he broke down every one of the Vols’ 17 signees on the first day of the early signing period. When he got to the defensive side of the ball, he started with the players Tennessee signed in the trenches. And he told a story about one of the Vols’ largest signees, defensive tackle Elijah Simmons.
Simmons played for Pearl Cohn High School in Nashville this past season, and he’s a big, big man. Simmons is listed at around 6-foot, 345-350 pounds, but he doesn’t play like a slow, lumbering giant on the field. Pruitt called him a “unique young man” when describing him, lauding his athleticism he saw at a camp over the summer.
“On the defensive side, we really tried to address some needs up front,” Pruitt said on Wednesday. “We’ve got to create some depth there. Starting in the middle with Elijah Simmons, Elijah is a very unique young man. He comes to camp and he weighs 340 pounds, and you’re sitting there watching him out there and just his athleticism, his change of direction, his motor. He never quit out there at camp and did a fantastic job.”
But that wasn’t even the most impressive part of Simmons’ athleticism according to Pruitt.
“I asked him the other day, ‘how much do you weight?’ and he said 352,” Pruitt continued. “I told him, ‘when we offered you a scholarship, our agreement was that you had to be 325,’ and he said, ‘well coach, I can dunk a basketball right now,’ and I said, ‘well I want you to video and send it to me’.
“Well, he did dunk it, but it was an alley-oop, so I told him that he had to get to 325 so he could get off the ground with a ball in his hand to do it. So that tells you a little bit about how he can move.”
Imagine for a moment a 6-foot, 352-pound player rumbling towards you on the basketball court and leaping up into the air getting ready to dunk. And then him actually doing it.
Simmons doesn’t just show off that athleticism on the basketball court, though. He was a member of Pearl Cohn’s track team too, participating in the discuss, javelin, and shot put.
Don’t worry, he displays that freak athleticism on the football field, too.
As a senior, Simmons totaled 54 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception he returned for a touchdown according to MaxPreps. And that interception was a thing of beauty, too. It wasn’t just a pick near the goal line that he ran in from a couple yards out; Simmons caught a deflected pass, threw some players off him, and rolled into the end zone with three tacklers trying to bring him down.
The second play on this video shows off that interception return for a touchdown:
Tennessee’s coaches made a point to find some big bodies in the 2019 class, but they didn’t just settle for space eaters and size for the sake of size. Most of the Vols’ 2019 signees who will play on the offensive and defensive lines can also move quickly and have some great athleticism, and Elijah Simmons is possibly the best example of that.