Viera’s Simms eager to step into starting QB role for Hawks


Viera High School junior C.J. Simms is excited about getting his chance to step into the starting quarterback role for the Hawks this season.

Carl Kotala

C.J. Simms has been waiting for this moment.

And when it comes, the Viera High School junior quarterback intends to take full advantage of it.

After playing in six games and making two starts for the Hawks last season, Simms is stepping into the role as the No. 1 starter for a Viera team that has won six consecutive district championships.

“I cannot wait,” Simms said. “I’ve been waiting for so long. I’m just ecstatic. Everyone’s coming together.

“We lost a couple of guys that we really relied on but, at the end of the day, I think our team energy is just as high, maybe even higher. We’re all just kicking at a different level now. I’m really excited to see how it turns out and how good we really are after all the work we’ve put in.”

Viera coach Derek Smith has been impressed with the way Simms has stepped up during the summer as he prepares to take on a bigger role.

“C.J., this entire summer, has shown a knack for learning, leadership, and a desire to want to be the best,” Smith said. ‘He hasn’t shied away from trying to lead by example. He has tried to study the game as much as possible.

“Especially now, when there’s no consistency and things are crazy, he’s trying to bring a consistency to his teammates and to himself, which is very exciting to see.”

Simms played in five games last season, throwing for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

Though he is mostly known for his passing game, the Viera coach knows he’s getting much more than that from his new starting quarterback.

“He plays an intelligent football game,” Smith said of Simms. “I had the pleasure of coaching C.J. when he was in middle school. C.J. always had an intelligence to his game. He’s got a strong arm.” 

To that point, Simms is trying to take what he learned last season — his first on varsity — to help him improve his game for the upcoming season.

“I learned that varsity kids are a lot faster than JV,” he said. “Especially against Centennial. They had a four-star D-end. I had gone against (Viera’s) Cooper (Davis) at practice, so I was used to him at practice speed. Game speed’s a whole new story.

“That kid really taught me that three seconds is three seconds. No longer or else you’re going to be in trouble. I’ve just got to stay focused on my pocket awareness, make sure I’m getting the ball out on time.

“I’ve just got to play at a faster speed than what I was used to. But I don’t think it will be too much trouble adjusting.”

Though he would prefer to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball, Simms also has been working to improve his 40 time in case he does have to run more this season.

“I know if I need to run, I’m going to be able to,” he said. “I just want to make sure that if I’m going to have to run more … I want to at least be faster than I am now.

“I’d like to stay in the pocket. I’d prefer if I could just take a clean three-step drop, or a one-step drop back there and make a good throw. But I also know I’m going to have to move this year. There’s no other way around it. I just want to make sure I better myself before I go into that.’

Simms also has been spending time working with his receivers, particularly Caleb Osburn, Jake Houston, James Goffigan and Jake Woodruff so they can work on the nuances of the relationship between a quarterback and his receivers in regards to routes, timing and the location of throws.

“The communication between the five of us is really good and really strong,” Simms said. “We all try to keep it like that. Every receiver contributes to that, from Caleb being a three-year starter to James, Houston and Woody being first-year starters.

“It’s impressed me that my receivers have been so open to communication and changing their style and helping me with my style so we can have the best team chemistry.”