ATLANTA — Myles Sims hated football the first few times he played it.
Even 6-and-under pee-wee football in Georgia was serious. Sims, playing quarterback, “got smashed” in his first practice.
“I would cry every practice,” Sims recalled Thursday. “The first game, I’m at quarterback, they snapped the ball and I ran all the way back and gave the other team a touchdown.”
Sims wasn’t interested, but his father, Merrick, wanted him to play.
As he grew physically, Sims gave it a chance and tried defense.
“I smacked a kid on his first play and I loved it,” he said.
A decade later, the Michigan football program is glad he did.
Sims, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound four-star cornerback who committed to the Wolverines on April 7, is one of the key recruits in U-M’s 2018 class.
Sitting in the Atlanta Westlake High School stands Thursday as his team practiced on the field – he sat out after a Wednesday bump on the head — Sims explained how Michigan began as part of his past and turned into his future.
He considers himself a Georgian having lived the past 10 years in Atlanta. But his first five or so years of his life were spent in the Detroit area, living in Southfield.
With his parents wanting to move closer to their families in the South, Sims unknowingly came along for a decision that changed his life.
Taller than other kids, his athleticism was apparent but needed guidance.
On his left wrist, he wears a white “i-DareU” plastic band, representing his training program under Glenn Ford, CEO of the training and development organization. Sims was there soon after the program’s 2006 launch and has grown with it.
It became his connection to the older players – cornerback Shaq Wiggins, who played at Louisville and will finish this year as a grad transfer at Tennessee, and Corey Griffin, a fifth-year defensive back at Georgia Tech. The players were six or seven years ahead of him.
They showed the path to a college scholarship and big-time football, and Sims tried to keep pace.
The “i-DareU” training program became integral in Sims’ development on the field and his identity off it, drawing his nickname “Spider.”
“My body was formed weird – I had a short torso and long legs and long arms,” Sims said. “At first they nicknamed me ‘legs.’ And after awhile they saw I was a really good at DB sticking to the older receivers. Then it was ‘shoot, he has the webs.’ They said they’re going to call me Spider as it matched up with my body frame.
“Ever since then, it stuck.”
His coaches, friends, reporters, teammates, teachers, and father call him Spider, sometimes. All except his mother; she won’t go there.
Sims has embraced the nickname.
After Thursday’s practice, an elementary-aged girl yelled to him as he left the field: “Is your name really Spider?” He chuckled, turned and had to burst her bubble.
In the college recruiting world, Sims’ first real notice came in 10th grade. Having cornerback A.J. Terrell (a four-star prospect entering Clemson next fall) in the same defensive backfield a year ahead of him helped, as did the “i-DareU” program’s track record.
Sims’ first scholarship still is memorable.
Sitting in math class as a sophomore, Ford texted him, asking if he they could chat.
Sims stepped out of class to discover Kentucky offered a scholarship – “an SEC team!” he thought — and re-entering class, his mind wandered to the future.
Auburn soon followed – mixed emotions for his father, an Alabama fan – and the family realized doors were opening.
Sims has seemed to thrive on the field, drawing appropriate interest from all types of schools, including Stanford and Duke. But it’s been rockier off the field.
The attention went to his head and Sims had an unseemly edge. He admitted to big-timing peers and bragging on his offers.
Until a sit-down with his parents re-centered him late in that sophomore year.
“I got humbled,” Sims said. “I was starting to lose close friends, people who were in my favor and in my corner were starting to fade. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I could see the way it unfolded because of the way I treated people. I stopped acting like that and had a talk with God to come back to myself and back to reality.”
That’s a heavy realization for a 15-year-old. But it may have allowed him to listen when Michigan came calling.
Despite his Michigan roots, he never thought much about U-M. Then in February 2016, he was surprised when the nation’s No. 1 player, Rashan Gary, chose the Wolverines.
Four months later, his former roommate from a Georgia all-star game, Otis Reese of Leesburg, Ga., committed to the Wolverines after a visit.
The wheels began turning for Sims; Reese gave him a nudge.
One trip the second week of March 2017 was enough. Already academically inclined with a 3.6 grade-point average, U-M’s Ross Business School met his off-field needs and his relationship with Michigan’s coaches, particularly linebackers/special teams coach Chris Partridge, made it an easier decision than he expected when he announced April 7.
“The whole coaching staff, they make you feel like it’s home,” Sims said. “They incorporated me into their defense, and I fit quite well.”
Westlake coach Kareem Reid took over before last season from South Florida and was comfortable as Michigan emerged for Sims.
He could vouch for the Wolverines. Reid coached against U-M staffer Devin Bush Sr. in Florida and had a connection to Partridge.
It didn’t take him long to recognize Sims’ caliber.
When he put on the film looking at the team’s talent, “you can’t help but notice him,” Reid said.
The No. 1 recruit in 2018’s class, Cartersville, Ga. quarterback Trevor Lawrence, found that out the hard way in last year’s early season game.
Rolling out of the pocket to his left on a deep route, Lawrence threw nearly 55 yards to the end zone, eyeing his receiver. Sims jumped and high-pointed the ball, picking it off.
“That embodies what he is as a player,” Reid said. “He has the speed and the length, you can’t throw over him and it’s hard to get behind him too.”
Sims is ranked the No. 15 cornerback nationally. He’ll get a showcase at The Opening next month in Beaverton, Ore.
Then once the season begins in the fall, he’ll have the spotlight on defense, and Reid also plans to give him much of Terrell’s offensive role.
“He has good ball skills,” Reid said. “He can run a go route, get a jump ball in the red zone. That’s easy for him.”