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East turns program over to Simmons

Douglas Fritz • Apr 24, 2020 at 1:35 PM

Sullivan East turned its football program over to J.C. Simmons, dropping the interim tag and choosing Simmons as the Patriots’ new head coach Friday.

Simmons replaced Mike Locke, who recently resigned after nine seasons to become East’s new athletic director.

The 33-year-old Simmons said he’s excited about the opportunity to be a head coach.

“It has been a dream of mine for a long time,” said Simmons, who previously served as East’s defensive coordinator. “Being here at Sullivan East has been just a blessing to be part of Patriot nation. I’m happy, excited and fired up about what is to come.”

Simmons becomes the Patriots’ 14th head coach since the late 1960s. He played high school football at Patrick Henry in Roanoke and collegiately at Emory & Henry.

Simmons coached in 2010-11 as a graduate assistant for the Wasps. He arrived at Sullivan East in 2012 and has been a football assistant and jayvee basketball coach.

Simmons steps into a Class 4A league that has produced three consecutive state champions, Greeneville winning in 2017 and 2018 and Elizabethton taking the crown in 2019.

“In this conference there are some of the top teams in the state obviously,” Simmons said. “It’s a huge challenge to compete with those teams. But I know from being here at Sullivan East this long, we can compete with anybody as long as we’re on the same page and working in the right direction.”

Simmons played quarterback in high school along with spending time at linebacker and cornerback. He played in the secondary at Emory & Henry.

Simmons said he can’t comment on the direction for East’s offense and defense at this time.

“I have to get with the coaching staff and work those things out,” he said. “But we want it to be something the kids are enthusiastic about playing.”

Simmons has a son, Easton, and his fiancé, Brandy, has a son, Ryker.

East Principal Andy Hare said Simmons is the right fit for the program.

“We are pleased and elated to name J.C. Simmons as the new head football coach at Sullivan East,” Hare said. “I believe Coach Simmons is the right man for the job and I am convinced he will build the Patriots’ football program into one of class and respect.

“Our community is proud of its student-athletes and extremely supportive of their programs. I know Coach Simmons will build on that support and make our program one that people are excited to follow."

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