GRAY – Boomer Simmons could have walked away from the struggling Gray-New Gloucester High School football team last fall when he was sidelined with a season-ending hip injury, but he stuck it out – and stood up for what he thought was right.
Simmons, a two-year captain who played both running back and linebacker, had his high school career hobbled in September by a torn labrum. With his team on its way to a disappointing 0-8 season, a less dedicated player might have called it quits.
“That’s just not me. Football is in my blood. I can’t just walk away from it,” Simmons, who lives in New Gloucester, said last week. “And it would have been unfair to the guys.”
Simmons, 19, and about 140 classmates will graduate June 9 at the Cross Insurance Center in Portland. During his high school football career, he won only four games as part of a recently struggling Gray-New Gloucester program. But he’s learned from those challenges.
“From losing so many games in my high school career, and being part of a program that hasn’t really had a lot of dominance – hasn’t really had any dominance – it’s taught me a lot about myself and my character,” Simmons said. “It’s really taught me to overcome a lot of adversity, and taught me a lot about people – and how people react when your losing differently than when you’re winning.”
Despite the struggles, Simmons said his teammates “kinda all stuck together.”
The team – and Simmons – faced a different sort of test last October when his then-head coach reportedly told players to taunt an opposing player from Yarmouth whose parents are both women.
Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrew Dolloff commended Gray-New Gloucester players for bringing the comments to light before the Oct. 13 game.
Simmons was one of those to come forward, a tough call that he made “because it was the right thing to do.”
Simmons said that his decision at the time was based on “everything I learned my entire life – through having coaches teach me stuff, through having my dad teach me stuff.”
“It was also hard for me to do, because going against an adult and a coach, it was hard,” he said. “It was the right thing to do for the team, not for myself”
When asked if he would make the same decision again, he didn’t waiver.
“I would never change what I did,” he said confidently.
The incident and his injury were not Simmons first taste of adversity.
“My mom passed away when I was 11, and it took me a look time to accept that and accept the fact that it happened,” he explained. “But me and my dad, we became very, very close and he ended up marrying a wonderful person – and she’s a great step mom. Both of them have taught me more about life than anyone could ever explain. They’ve really made me who I am.”
Simmons, who changed his name from Elijah when he was 17, said his dad Jason Simmons has called him Boomer “my whole life.”
“It’s official – it’s on my license and my social security card,” he said with a smile.
Simmons’ stepmother is Jennifer Simmons and he has two older brothers.
Simmons grew up in Naples and played football in Lake Region schools before moving to Gray in eighth grade and then later to New Gloucester.
Once his family moved to Gray, Simmons said he “really focused on my academics more, because I knew that football was going to have an endpoint.”
He currently plans to attend the University of Southern Maine next year and study business, and still has hopes of continuing his football career.
He had surgery in January and will continue rehabbing his hip through August.
“It’s going to be a while until I’m 100 percent, but I’m going to get there,” he said.
Gray-New Gloucester School District Superintendent Craig King called Simmons a “hard-working, mature individual” who hasn’t let the injury slow him down.
“He keeps on trucking – he doesn’t let that stop him from being really productive and working really hard,” King said.
While walking on the high school football field, Simmons took time to reflect on the teams’ role in Gray and New Gloucester.
“There’s a lot of support in this community and I really hope it continues,” Simmons said, optimistic that the Gray-New Gloucester football team can turn things around.
“Football was definitely one of the best things that ever happened to me,” he said. “I’m definitely going to coach at some point in my life.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Boomer Simmons, a graduating Gray-New Gloucester senior and football captain, stuck by his team after a season-ending hip injury.