Saturdays in the fall for Tyler Simmons include being on the football field playing defensive end for Aurora University, then taking in more football on TV.
“After our games, I watch a lot of college football and I wonder what it would be like to play in front of a huge crowd,” said Simmons, a senior defensive lineman for the NCAA Division III Spartans who graduated from Crystal Lake South.
Thanks to his time spent in the community, Simmons will get a taste of big-time football in January.
Simmons earned an elite honor last week when he was named one of 22 college football players from across the country to the 2013 Allstate Good Works Team, a collection of athletes recognized for contributing to their communities.
Simmons said the 22 players will travel to New Orleans in January for the Sugar Bowl – sponsored by Allstate – to conduct a youth football clinic and be honored on the field at halftime.
“Most of the time, football players are in the media for something negative,” Simmons said. “It’s nice to be recognized for doing the right things. It’s a huge honor.”
Simmons is one of 11 members on a team made up of players from Football Championship Subdivision, D-II, D-III and NAIA teams. Another 11-member team is made up of Football Bowl Subdivision players.
Team members were selected by a committee comprised of former Good Works honorees, media members, current and former members of the American Football Coaches Association and an Allstate executive.
Online voting on ESPN’s website will determine a captain from among the 22 Good Works honorees. Fans can vote by visiting ESPN.com and searching “Good Works.”
During his career, Simmons has helped organize a 5K run/walk to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis and coached in a youth flag football program. He also has volunteered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization that provides education, homes and jobs for mentally challenged adults and teens.
“He’s a fine, outstanding defensive lineman, but he’s a better person,” Aurora coach Mark Walsh said. “He’s always first in line to volunteer for community activities. We’re thrilled for him and for the recognition our football program will get. I can’t think of a more deserving person.”
Simmons, an honorable mention All-Northern Athletics Conference player last season, said he doesn’t preach to his younger teammates to get involved in community projects. Instead, he offers a simple message.
“I like to just lead by example,” he said. “I tell [teammates] to do things their parents will be proud of.”
Simmons was surprised by Walsh and an athletic department employee with news of the award last week during a practice. Since then, he has received congratulatory messages from numerous supporters.
“There’s a lot of excitement around campus about it,” Simmons said. “I’ve heard from our athletic director, and several former teachers have emailed me. I’ve already had [teammates] tell me that they’re going to win it next year.”
Digging dandy: During September, Johnsburg grad Kelsey Nobilio became only the eighth player in D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater women’s volleyball history to surpass 1,500 career digs.
Nobilio, a junior libero for the Warhawks (13-4), ranks fifth with 1,592 digs.
She ranks third in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season with 4.47 digs a set.
Whitewater ranks 17th this week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association D-III poll. The Warhawks’ 3-2 loss Wednesday to UW-Stevens Point ended an 11-match winning streak. Nobilio, who had 21 digs in the defeat, was named Whitewater’s Player of the Week on Sept. 16.
From MCC to Eureka: Former McHenry County College baseball coach Kim “Hoss” Johnson took over a new program Monday.
Johnson, who has won 515 games over 20 seasons as a collegiate head coach, was selected to lead the D-III Eureka College baseball program.
Johnson had two stints as MCC’s head coach, from 1993 through 1996 and from 2002 through 2011. He served as an assistant coach last season at D-III Blackburn College in Carlinville. Blackburn and Eureka are members of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Johnson also spent three seasons as the head coach at D-I Western Illinois.
Offensive star: Huntley grad Ashley Smith, a sophomore outside hitter at D-I Maryland Eastern Shore, is leading the volleyball team with 73 kills this season.
Smith, a transfer from Kentucky Wesleyan, is averaging 1.92 kills a set for the Hawks (1-11).
Goalkeeper garners honor: Crystal Lake Central grad Vickey Benhart was named the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week in women’s soccer Monday.
Benhart, a sophomore goalkeeper at D-III Eureka, guided the Red Devils to a 2-1 overtime victory last week against Rockford College. She made four saves in the match, her second career collegiate victory.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.