FAYETTEVILLE — Malvern Class of 2023 quarterback Cedric Simmons is turning heads at Malvern and around the state with his play on the gridiron.
Simmons, 5-11, 175, is a dual-threat quarterback who has helped the Leopards to a 4-4 record. He started as a freshman on the high school varsity last year and led the team to the playoffs. This season in eight games, Simmons has completed 120 of 174 passes for 1,506 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has rushed 98 times for 505 yards and four more touchdowns. Kansas took notice on Oct. 13 and offered him a scholarship. He owns a 4.0 grade-point average and ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash in the ninth grade.
As a freshman in 2019 playing with the varsity, Simmons completed 49 of 90 passes for 621 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed 167 times for 921 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Playing last year as a freshman it really helped me out because it gave me an early look at how it would be playing varsity,” Simmons said. “Gave me more experience for this year and helped me get better at that. Gave me a little challenge too. Playing with older people helps me get better. If I had played at my grade, as my coach said, it wouldn’t have been any competition so it wouldn’t have pushed me to get any better. Playing with older people pushed me to get better and stuff like that.”
Simmons talked about the season and how it has gone thus far.
“It’s going pretty good,” Simmons said. “So far, so good. We’re not where we want to be. We still goals to be champions. I hope I can lead this team to those goals.”
Simmons and Malvern have had to deal with COVID distractions as well like most other schools.
“To me, I just see it as an obstacle,” Simmons said. “This summer it gave me a chance to work on me, myself, as a player and a leader. Just learn skills and be prepared for the season if it were to come around which it did. But so far COVID the last two weeks it has hit us, but early in the season hasn’t really been a factor in our football. We’ve been strict on wearing the masks and taking all the precautions so we won’t get it or have any cases around us.”
Simmons is a dual-threat quarterback. He listed what he feels are his strengths on the field.
“Most definitely my legs, but my arm too,” Simmons said. “Last year I really didn’t get to throw too much as a freshman, but that’s what I worked on over the summer when I had that time alone because of COVID. I worked on that to get better. I’ve improved so much as of right now, but I still have a lot more to prove.”
Malvern has produced such Arkansas standouts as Madre Hill, Harold Harris, Tony Ollison, Gerald Skinner, J.R. Ross and others through the years. They had fallen on hard times in recent years, but Simmons and the coaches as well as his teammates seem to be turning the program back around.
“I feel good about it,” Simmons said of direction of program. “Last year our motto was build a house. We wanted to lay the concrete last year. This year, we want to put all the bolts and everything on the house so we can get a strong structure. As we go on we will start building the house up to be strong. The next couple of years we will hopefully continue to improve and not go back.”
The Power 5 offer from Kansas is just his first. It seems very likely in the coming months and years he will add many more offers to that list.
“They see the potential to be a great D-I athlete or whatever,” Simmons said. “They see that and I really wasn’t expecting to get any offers this early. It was kinda a shock to me.”
Simmons has seen the Razorbacks also turn the program around sitting at 2-2 after four games.
“They’re kinda similar to us,” Simmons said. “They play hard and go out there and give it all they’ve got and leave it all the field with no regrets. They want to be good and they’re striving toward that. I see that in us too. We weren’t good two years ago, but we’re laying that structure and building that hardwood floor to get better.”
Simmons, despite only being a sophomore, is trying to provide leadership skills to his team. He goes in early and watches film each morning.
“Last year was kinda tough,” Simmons said. “I was in there as a freshman with all those sophomores, juniors and seniors. Trying to be a leader for them was kinda tough because I was the little one. So far I’ve been trying my best to keep all my players heads on straight and doing my part for the team trying to lead us the best we can be.
“I go in the morning to watch a little film on my opponents that week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I go over the script for Friday and see how we’re gonna do and make sure I’m good with everything. When I watch film I just see what they’re gonna give us. See where I can put the ball and see what I can do to exploit their weaknesses, make good plays and stuff like that.”
This Friday, the Leopards will be at Nashville. They will close out the regular season next Friday at home against Arkadelphia. That is a very brutal schedule to finish out the season, but Simmons and his teammates are preparing for the challenge.