Stay focused. A.J. Sims is fast.
He's blown by plenty of defenders and made a host of others miss. He creates yards from inches of space.
"Every time he has the ball in his hands he has a chance to make a big play," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said of his wide receiver, punt returner and defensive back.
Stay focused. A.J. Sims is easy to miss.
At just 5-foot-8, he's easy to lose behind linemen and blockers and other receivers and defenders. And then he has the ball and he's gone.
"He's got great speed, good hands. If he gets the ball in his hands he can make play with it," said South Gwinnett coach John Small, whose team faces Sims annually. "He's definitely a guy you have to account for on the field, where's he's at, what he's doing every play he's on the field because he can hurt you."
Stay focused. A.J. Sims is strong.
He spent the non-football season working out every day. He caught hundreds of passes, went to college camps, lifted weights, ran with the track team.
"He's a great talent, but he's still learning the game every day," Crews said.
Stay focused, because A.J. Sims refused to lose his.
"I am looking forward to putting up better numbers than I did last year," Sims said. "I can't just settle on one offer right now. I have to go out and play like I don't have any."
He has committed to Michigan State and fielded offers from Southern Cal, South Carolina, Ohio State, Georgia and Auburn.
Those offers came based on last year's numbers.
As a junior, Sims led Gwinnett County with 57 receptions for 915 yards. Not surprisingly, that was a Brookwood record.
An athlete like Sims will make any coach adjust his philosophy.
"You try to highlight your talent," Crews said.
Sims highlights himself.
Before last year began he predicted the change of focus for the Broncos offense to anyone who asked.
"Before the year started I had people coming up to me saying, ‘Why are you playing wide receiver, you know Brookwood is going to run the ball?' I answered, ‘Well, it's time for a change,'" Sims said. "When we started throwing the ball more, it was like, ‘Wow, it's really happening.' Brookwood never throws the ball, we had one passing play, now we have a whole package for the passing game. It's exciting."
Mr. Excitement was a moniker dropped on Sims by Brookwood's broadcast crew last season and what the name lacks in originality is eclipsed by its accuracy. Every catch brought the breath-catching moment of possible thrills and whether those thrills were realized each time was irrelevant.
Like most athletes, Sims picked up every sport as he grew up. He started playing football when he was 6. He tried baseball and basketball and runs track as a corollary to his football training. But the rest of the sports fell to the side as football took its hold.
"It's the best sport," Sims said.
Baseball bored him and basketball didn't offer the physical challenge. For all of the excitement Sims brings to the Broncos offense, he would rather knock someone down than run past them.
"Football is where the real men play," Sims said. "(I like) covering and hitting people. Defense is where it's at. They say offense is for the pretty boys."
Sims will head to Michigan State as an offensive player, but hints he would rather play defense.
At Brookwood he'll do both. Playing both ways is not for pretty boys.
"He's fast, he's agile, he's able to make people miss and he makes great plays on defense," Crews said.
Unsolicited, Crews also offers this description of Sims.
"In all the other aspects of his life, he's a good kid too," the long-time head coach said. "He has strong church ties. That in turn often translates into one of the strong leaders on the team. In the two years he's played for us there is nothing negative you can say about him."
Sims organizes a team prayer after every practice and he spent time in the spring in a leadership program with athletes from other schools. Over the past two six-win Brookwood seasons Sims watched teammates kicked off the team and others arrested. He connects those issues with the inconsistent performance on the field.
"Last year we had a lack of leadership," Sims said. "This class coming up is better fitted as leaders. All we have to do is keep the younger ones on track with us.
"We hang out most of the time and we try to stay out of trouble."
Sims speaks with earnest about his leadership. He wants to carry his teammates to success, to more wins and to championships. He knows football doesn't end for him this season, but he is approaching this final high school turn knowing it will end for others.
"For all the seniors who might not play football again, ever, this is their last year," he said. "It's not just one person, it's the whole team.
"You just have to stay focused."