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David McGee/DN

Redshirt freshman I-back Marques Simmons tries to break through Terrell Butler's tackle during Saturday's spring game. Simmons rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries and scored the white team's only touchdown.

Simmons' sprinter roots key to speed

By Dirk Chatelain
April 22, 2002

As a lifelong sprinter, Marques Simmons has always been about speed.

"Ever since grade school," Simmons said, "people have always been like, 'Let's race. Marques, you want to race?'"

Nobody volunteered to race Simmons on Saturday. The redshirt freshman I-back took full advantage of his speed to rush for 88 yards on 12 carries in the Red-White game, raising some eyebrows on a rainy day at Memorial Stadium.

It was a culmination of a spring when Simmons began to make a name for himself on the football field and not the track.

"He's one of the fastest guys on the team," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "All the other backs are fast, but Marques is probably the only guy that nobody is going to catch."

Simmons, playing before the biggest crowd of his life Saturday, looked more than comfortable in his first game-type atmosphere.

Especially as he knifed through the defense during the first three minutes of the third quarter. On the drive, Simmons, who led the White in rushing, ran five times for 58 yards and one touchdown. It was his team's only score of the day.

"On that drive, everything just clicked," said Simmons, who, at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, admits to being a "little guy."

His touchdown was on a 10-yard option pitch where the Davenport, Iowa, native exploded to the outside and dove into the end zone.

When it was all over, Simmons, with rain still dripping off his jersey, entered the press room and was immediately asked to stand at the podium for questions.

"Go up front?" he said, a bit overwhelmed by the mass reaction to his performance. "Wow."

Simmons brings NU a change of pace at I-back that has been missing in recent years. While Dan Alexander, Correll Buckhalter and Dahrran Diedrick would feature a combination of more power than speed, Simmons offers a different dimension.

"Marques is a speed back that's able to give you acceleration off the cut," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said. "He can be going one direction and all of a sudden see it jammed up and make that cut to an open area. That's the kind of back that gives you a lot of big play capability."

Simmons, who ran indoor track for the Huskers this winter, showed that breakaway speed on a pitch play that went for 20 yards down the left sideline, his longest gain of the day.

He looked like a sprinter, not a running back, bolting down the sideline.

Which is natural for Simmons, whose roots are in track and field, not football.

His dad, Clancy, who taught former Nebraska running back Roger Craig in elementary physical education, was invited to the 1972 Olympic trials in the triple jump.

"I've probably only missed the Drake Relays three times in my life," said Simmons, who has run the 100-meter in 10.26 seconds. He holds the 100-meter record in the Drake Relays in the high school division. "Track's been around in my family forever."

Simmons, who will compete in the Relays again next week, may not be high on the depth chart when fall camp opens in August. But Solich said Simmons was a player that would find a spot on the field, probably on kickoff returns.

"I just wanted to show the coaches what I could do," said Simmons, who will be vying for playing time with seven other backs on scholarship. "Hopefully, they'll see that and I'll get a little playing time next fall." end of article dingbat

Simmons' sprinter roots key to speed
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