Cole Simmons had offers to play college soccer, but they were all from out-of-state colleges and he wanted to stay in Alabama.
Thus, he didn’t get to participate in Arab High School’s annual Signing Day ceremony with his classmates on May 15.
That didn’t stop him from attending numerous collegiate soccer prospect/ID camps around the Southeast, a practice he started last summer before his senior year. Many college coaches scout players at these camps, and Simmons hoped against hope he could catch on with an in-state program.
His best shot seemed to be Montevallo, whose coaches had shown some level of interest in him in recent months. Montevallo was the ideal spot for Simmons, he thought, because of its proximity to home.
Besides, Simmons has a brother-in-law, Cody Hughes, who once pitched at Montevallo. Simmons wanted to follow in his footsteps, just in a different sport.
Simmons kept in touch with Montevallo’s coaches by phone, but nothing ever materialized. Finally, on May 18, at the urging of Montevallo’s coaches, Simmons competed in yet another camp at UAB. Other colleges represented at the camp included Montevallo, Auburn-Montgomery (AUM), Huntingdon College and two out-of-state programs.
“This camp represented probably his last chance,” said Alan Simmons, Cole’s dad. “He kinda took the attitude of, this might be the final time he competes on a soccer field, so just go out there and have fun.”
And Cole did just that. He had an excellent day, and his parents were excited to see him afterward.
Problem was, Cole seemed a little dejected.
“I didn’t hear from Montevallo,” he said.
Then his eyes lit up.
“But I did hear from Huntingdon College!”
That was joyful news to his parents, because they knew how much playing soccer meant to their son.
“He just really loves the game of soccer,” said his mother, Staci Simmons.
Huntingdon coach Matt Cooper invited the family for a campus visit. All were blown away by the campus, which is located in the Old Cloverdale area of Montgomery, right across the street from the famed Montgomery Country Club.
The friendliness of all the staff, including academic personnel, was eye-opening as well.
For Simmons, the decision to commit to the Hawks and Cooper was an easy one. He had a formal signing ceremony at Arab High School on Thursday morning.
There was no big crowd, like for the ceremony on May 15, but Cole didn’t care. The people who really mattered were there, including his high school coach, Chris Urquhart.
“He’s an amazing player,” Urquhart said. “And his attitude is always absolutely amazing.”
This past season was Urquhart’s first as coach at Arab. When he held tryouts in December, Simmons was among those who stood out.
Urquhart said he saw an ability in Simmons that allowed him a chance to line up in a unique formation.
“I would usually like to play two players on the back line of defense,” Urquhart said. “But because Cole could handle it, I put him in the sweeper role (meaning he covered both sides of the field).
“By doing that, it enabled me to boost our midfield.”
Simmons was part of the most accomplished senior class in the history of boys soccer at Arab, compiling a 32-15-5 record between 2017-19. That record includes a 22-2 mark in area play and back-to-back area championships (2017-18). The Knights were area runnerup this past season.
The Knights’ AHSAA state playoff record was 4-3 and included a final four appearance in 2018.
As for Simmons individually, he was a four-year starter and letterman and was team captain his senior season. Before his senior year, he was chosen to be a participant for the North squad in the AHSAA All-Star Game.
Huntingdon competes in the NCAA USA South Athletic Conference. Cooper was hired as the Hawks’ head coach in 2015, and he led the Hawks to their first appearance in the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament. His Huntingdon teams have produced two All-Conference selections and 26 Academic All-Conference selections.
Its first game this fall, Huntingdon will play Aug. 30 against Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
“We’ll be there,” Alan Simmons said.
As if the late offer to continue playing soccer wasn’t enough, Cole got another sign on his visit to the Huntingdon campus. As his meeting with Cooper was wrapping up, Cole wanted to ask him one final question.
It seemed a little self-serving, so he was hesitant ask for fear of giving his future coach a wrong impression. But Cole had seen that the Huntingdon player who wore No. 17 had graduated.
“Since the seventh grade, in football and soccer, Cole always wore No. 17,” said his mother.
So Cole asked.
“I think we can pull that off,” Cooper said.
When the family got back in their car to drive home, Cole fist-pumped the air.
“This was meant to be,” he said.
Cole isn’t the only one causing a stir in the Simmons family. His sister, Channing Stewart, got married within the last couple of weeks. And his other sister, Connor Hughes, gave birth to her first baby on June 6.
The baby’s name? Beckham.
“We’ve been super, super busy the last six weeks,” Staci Simmons said. “We’ve been busy but it’s all been great.”