For Mike Sims-Walker, the Best is Yet to Come
After every Jacksonville Jaguars’ home game, my post-game duties include targeting a player from the winning team for an interview. Once captured and cornered, I arrange for him to be interviewed on air with Sporting News Radio.
Sometimes, it’s as easy as ordering a burger at a fast food joint. Everything goes as planned, and it takes less than five minutes.
Other times, I would compare it to sheep herding in Scotland. Dodging obstacles – football pads and helmets instead of rocks – and chasing professional athletes are not as glamorous as they may seem.
For the last three home games, solely by coincidence, I have approached Jaguar wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker for the post-game interview.
And, after the Tennessee Titans game, once I confirmed with a Sporting News producer that I had Sims-Walker ready for air time, the producer shyly asked, “Now, who is he?”
Certainly, it was a question I easily answered, but the majority of NFL followers might have been unable to correctly respond.
Now, at the mid-way point of the 2009 NFL season, I think most of the country knows who Sims-Walker is and what he’s capable of on the field.
Sims-Walker was a key component in the three wins against the Titans, St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs.
In those three wins, Sims-Walker totaled 22 catches, 358 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Those games have accounted for well over 60 percent of his production this season – 36 receptions, 554 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s the breakout year finally expected of Sims-Walker, the third-year receiver from the University of Central Florida. And, he knows it.
After Sunday’s win, Sims-Walker said, “Actually I’m just happy to put those pads on every day.”
He has stayed humble, but doesn’t dodge questions when asked about his production and the goals for the Jaguars.
In the Jaguars’ weight room on Sunday, Sims-Walker told me there isn’t one team remaining on Jacksonville’s schedule that he is worried about facing. His confidence is evident.
I retorted with “not even the Colts or Patriots?” and he gave me a straightforward “no.”
What’s another football game when life has thrown you curveballs in past years?
Sims-Walker, a 2007 third-round draft pick of the Jaguars, missed all of his rookie campaign with a knee injury. Injured reserve became his label.
Last season became much of the same, except for added heartache. In November 2008, Sims-Walker was hospitalized with a staph infection in his knee and was inactive for three straight games.
Later that month, Sims-Walker lost his best friend to a tragic stabbing at an Orlando nightclub. He got to the scene in time to see Winfred L. Ezell lying in his own blood.
On December 6, 2008, Sims-Walker’s 51-year-old father Michael Sims passed away as a result of colon cancer.
Both funerals were held only a few days apart from one another. Football took a temporary backseat.
Following his father’s death, Sims-Walker decided to honor him by adding Sims to the Walker.
With the 2009 season accompanied by the hyphenated name, Sims-Walker has a new identity.
There is talk of the Jacksonville Jaguars finally having a bona fide No. 1 starting wide receiver.
That would be Mike Sims-Walker.
In six starts this year, Sims-Walker has three 100-yard games and only one blemish.
The Florida native was a healthy scratch for the Seattle Seahawks game because of a missed curfew. It was an unfortunate incident for the 24-year-old Sims-Walker.
On Sunday, he confirmed off-the-field issues have not been a problem since that road trip.
That’s a must if Sims-Walker plans on being quarterback David Garrard’s go-to aerial target.
In addition to non-football related matters, Sims-Walker told me his body feels the best it has in quite some time. Ice, rehabilitation and treatment were common vocabulary for him in his first two years in the NFL.
Now, they are just nouns that he hopes to avoid whenever he can.
With a healthy body comes lofty goals. His main individual goal this season is to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
This is something that has not been accomplished since Jimmy Smith reached it in 2005.
However, when the topic of Sims-Walker’s teammates is addressed, he gushes over the poise of Garrard, the enormous success of running back Maurice Jones-Drew and the continued improvement of rookie wide receiver Mike Thomas.
Future growth and notoriety for Sims-Walker are going to occur. In my opinion, he’ll be known as a top-15 fantasy wide receiver and a true playmaker.
And, if the home wins continue, I won’t mind dodging the helmets and pads and waiting for a post-game interview with Sims-Walker.
In a couple years, he’ll be one of the cornerstones of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not only is Sims-Walker a positive on-field asset to the team, but he is a humble man who has unending confidence in the abilities of his teammates and the success of the franchise.
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show.
Richard also contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 12-2 p.m. on ABC 1320 WBOB.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.
You can e-mail Richard at Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com