Any high school student knows that Shakespeare wrote that the world is a stage and that, in his lifetime, a man plays many parts.
Interestingly, we can look at those around us whom we know in one of those roles and discover that this quote is so very true.
For the last several decades, one member of our community held various administrative roles. In them, he was widely known as a dedicated and valuable leader in education. Prior to those assignments, Danny Sims worked in a position that was perhaps more demanding and maybe even closer to his heart. It certainly left him with some vivid and very rewarding memories which he shared with this columnist last week.
The school year began on Monday; with that, football season is underway. No one knows the preparation involved in readying a team for its high school football season better than Jackson County’s own Danny Sims. And, only those coaches and players who work and play together realize the permanence of memories and relationships borne of those hot, sweaty practices which manifest into winning performances because hard work, strategy, and tenacity become accomplishments of a lifetime.
Danny came up through the ranks earning his spot as head coach of Marianna High School football in 1982. A 1972 graduate of MHS Danny, was a four- year member of the MHS football team. He then attended Chipola Junior College, as it was known at that time, graduating in 1974 before going to the University of West Florida from which he graduated in 1976.
Sims’ first job in education was as a PE teacher at Riverside Elementary from 1976 to 1981. With the desire to coach in his system, he joined the coaching staff at MHS as an assistant coach in baseball, football, and basketball working under head coach Wendell Davis in football.
In 1981, Danny was transferred to MHS as a PE teacher and became an assistant under Coach Ricky Smith. In 1982, he took over a team that was 7-3 the previous year and led his team to a 10-1 record.
Danny’s most memorable game came when the MHS Bulldogs faced Monticello Jefferson County. Both teams entered the game undefeated with Monticello ranked number one in the state and MHS ranked number four. Both teams held a 6-0 record.
The week of the big game came and his team watched film on Monday as was the norm. They came out to the field and his seniors asked, “Coach, what’s it going to take for us to win this game?” Danny said he told them, “Guys I’m going to be honest with you. If we are going to beat this team, we are going to have to score 35 points. If we score less than 35 points, we get beat. We are a good defensive team and they are a great offensive team. We score 35 points and we win.” There was a ton of hype as the game approached.
Assistant coach Rex Wimberly was in the booth and Danny had a headset on. He said he began to hear a hammering and asked Wimberly where the hammering was coming from. Wimberly replied he wasn’t aware of any hammering and wasn’t hearing any. Danny said it was then that he realized his headset was picking up his heartbeat. He removed the headset and began to pace the field to relax and settle down. He said he walked up and down the sidelines, drank him some Gatorade and left his headset off. He said he was more or less talking to himself that he had to calm down because he knew his kids would pick up on it if he didn’t.
The kick off came and the ball landed in the end zone giving the Bulldogs the ball on the 20- yard line. Danny vividly remembers the first play of the game with a smile on his face, “Twins left, flex right, 86 out route, ran a tight end side of the field and Jeff Bowers was off and running for 80 yards and the score.” Within a minute, MHS led 7-0. Part of the excitement of the game came late in the game when the Bulldogs scored to give them their 35 points of the game. Coach Sims had told them that if they won the game, not only would he shave his head, he would get James Drayton to shave it.
As the points were posted on the board, the team did something totally out of character for a Danny Sims coached team. They removed their helmets on the field and started rubbing their heads. Due to his witnessing a player break his leg many years earlier from a helmet being on the field, Danny never allowed his players to remove their helmets until they were completely off the field of play. The players quickly remembered their coach’s rule and returned their helmets to their heads. But, come Monday, Drayton came to school equipped to ensure that Coach lived up to his promise of a shaved head with a win. Drayton brought a very long extension cord and clippers to the middle of the field and, of course, the team gathered around to see the hair fall.
Together, coach and team members celebrated the success from the previous Friday night! Coach Sims continued at the helm of MHS football until 1987 when he moved into administration serving for many years as assistance principal at MHS, principal at Riverside and, eventually, as Superintendent of Schools.
In whatever role Danny was in, he kept the same rules in place. With his staff, his teachers, and the students under his supervision, he was upfront and told them only what he knew he could follow through on. And years after his coaching days came to an end, he always could be seen on the sidelines as a member of the chain gang or with the fans supporting the Bulldogs.
Danny is married to Pam McGill Sims with whom he has four sons, Bryan, Will, Rick and Jon. He lives on his family’s farm south of Marianna where he occasionally takes time to reflect upon his coaching days and share his memories of the games and the young men with whom he worked. Football season is upon us! He most enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, making memories for the next generation.