NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement just a couple of hundred yards from Nissan Stadium: With the 19th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Titans selected Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons.
“To get this type of player, this type of person where we got him, we’ve very fortunate,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Simmons was thought by many analysts to be a top-10 talent. He had 18 tackles for a loss and two sacks as a junior this past season. But the 6-foot-4, 301-pounder tore his ACL while training in February — so there will be no early returns for Tennessee — and comes with a red flag in his history.
Before enrolling at Mississippi State, he was involved in a fight among his sister, his mother and another woman.
Video of the incident showed Simmons, then a senior at Noxubee County (Macon, Miss.), striking the woman multiple times, then walking away.
Simmons was found guilty of malicious mischief. He pleaded no contest to simple assault and paid fines and restitution for the woman’s medical bills.
“He knows he made a mistake. And he’s gone on record and said that,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. “He’s done everything he can in his time at Mississippi State to try to make up for that mistake. And he knows that it’s something he’s got to live with it. And he told me on the phone when I told him he was a going to be a Titan, he goes, ‘I will not let you down. I won’t let you down.'”
Simmons was suspended by Mississippi State for the team’s 2016 season opener.
“I’m not perfect,” Simmons said on a conference call Thursday night. “I made that mistake. I owned up to that. I own up to the incident, I owned up to striking a woman. I wasn’t raised like that and I grew from that a lot. It was one of those things where I – I have a son myself. I don’t want my son to hit on a woman. I regret it sure enough. I’m just grateful to get this opportunity. Just like a brand new start in life.”
According to NFL Network, every “NFL team asked said he’s done everything right since getting on campus.”
“I’ll say this: There are bad people, and there are good people that make mistakes —bad, horrific mistakes,” Vrabel said. “And you can fix mistakes, you can’t fix bad people. And I can’t wait, and I’m excited to have Jeff sit in front of you guys (Friday) and share that story. He doesn’t hide behind it. He stands up like a grown man and he owns it. And I can promise you I will be proud of him (Friday) when he meets with you, whenever he does, that this is a good guy, this is a great guy that made a horrific mistake. He lives with it every day of his life and I’m very confident, as is Jon, that he will make everyone here proud.”
— Bill Martin (@MSUBillMartin) April 26, 2019
After three straight 9-7 seasons, this year’s draft is crucial for a Titans team looking to get over the hump. In selecting Simmons, they addressed a glaring hole on the roster and gave four-time Pro Bowl player Jurrell Casey a big complement along the defensive line — just not immediately. Simmons will begin his rookie season in the NFL on reserve/PUP at minimum as he recovers from his torn ACL.