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November 12, 2010Steven Threet got to know the guy protecting him from raging defensive ends and blitzing linebackers up close and personal this summer.
The Arizona State junior quarterback opened up his doors and allowed offensive tackle Aderious Simmons to stay with him for a month until Simmons could move into university housing at the start of fall classes.
"He was very neat," Threet said. "Very particular about where he puts his things."
But Threet was soon far more impressed with traits Simmons displayed other than his cleanliness. After living with and spending time with the player, Threet knew ASU was getting a one-of-kind teammate in Simmons, who transferred to Tempe after spending time at four different junior colleges.
"He's unbelievable," Threet said. "He'd go out of his way to help anybody he can. He's very strong in his beliefs and he sticks by them, and you have to admire somebody with that conviction."
Simmons' faith has guided him, he said, on a long journey that began in Louisiana and had him playing in Mississippi, Iowa and California before finally ending up in Tempe.
"All glory to God, I'm feeling blessed," Simmons said. "It's been a long road so far, I'm not saying it's over at all, but you know how it is when you go through something tough and you finally get some green."
For Simmons, "green" could mean the turf under his feet. Because he had to complete some junior-college coursework before being cleared by the NCAA, Simmons missed the majority of fall camp, putting a player with already limited experience behind the curve. He passed the eye test, but Simmons had plenty of work to do to become ready to make a contribution at the major college level.
"Everything has pretty much been the same," Simmons said, "but it's (learning) that there is a whole different type of speed at this level. It's about learning the calls on blitzes and things like that."
Simmons has been a quick study, earning his first career start in the team's fifth game of the season at Oregon State, a role he has not since relinquished.
"He's really progressed," coach Dennis Erickson said. "The guy is turning into an outstanding player. He still doesn't know what he's doing, really, to be honest. But he's so physically gifted and he works hard. He's so athletic and he's got everything that you would want an offensive lineman to have.
"He continues to get better and better all the time, so as time goes on he'll get better. And next season with the offseason program and eating the right meals and all that, he'll get even better."
Threet was confident this is where Simmons would be when the spent that month together this summer. Both players know what it's like to struggle through rough times, sometimes unsure of where the path would lead next. Simmons, though, said he doesn't let those sort of trepidations diminish his confidence on the football field.
"You practice all week and you practice hard, so there's no reason to have any fear. It's what you practice every day, so why doubt at all? Just go out and have fun."
With his faith at his side and plenty of "green" under his cleats, Simmons is having plenty of that.
Erickson said Thursday he would "very surprised" if freshman running back Kyle Middlebrooks (ankle) could play Saturday against Stanford.
Middlebrooks sustained the injury during ASU's loss to USC last week.