May 1, 2003
Willie Simmons, Clemson’s starting quarterback the first eight games of 2002, has announced that he will transfer to a Division I-AA institution for his final year of eligibility. The native of Quincy, FL has already earned his undergraduate degree from Clemson in marketing. He completed his postgraduate semester exams on Thursday and will return to his home in Florida on Friday.
Simmons served as a backup to Charlie Whitehurst for the final five games of 2002 and was listed as the backup quarterback after spring practice of 2003.
“I will always bleed Clemson orange and will always be a part of the Clemson family,” said Simmons. “But, for me to continue to pursue my goal of playing in the NFL I think it is important for me to see as much playing time as possible.
” I was given the opportunity to win the starting job in the spring. Charlie (Whitehurst) and I split time with the first unit during the spring. But, I am not the starting quarterback heading into the fall. I just feel it is the best decision for my career to transfer.”
Simmons did not indicate where he planned to transfer.
Simmons started eight games and played in 10 during the 2002 season. He completed 142 of 244 passes for 1559 yards and six touchdowns. He led the Tigers in completions and passing yardage. The completion total was fourth best in Clemson history for a single season. He had his best game of the year at Florida State when he completed 17-27 passes for 293 yards and two scores. He also rushed for a career high 50 yards in that game. Clemson was 4-4 in the games he started in 2002.
Even though he started just eight games in his Clemson career, Simmons leaves the school ranked 11th in Clemson history in passing yards (2530), 11th in pass attempts (391), 10th in completions (204), seventh in interception avoidance (.0332), ninth in touchdown passes (16) and ninth in completion percentage (.522).
As a freshman backup to Woodrow Dantzler in 2000 he threw for eight touchdowns, most ever by a Clemson freshman. He averaged 16.2 yards per completion and averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, best on the Clemson team that year.
“We certainly wanted Willie Simmons to remain at Clemson,” said Head Coach Tommy Bowden. ” He has represented the University well and has been a great ambassador. You have to be proud of any player who graduates in three years.
“He made some outstanding contributions on the field. He led us from behind in 2000 at North Carolina when Woody Dantzler was hurt in one of Clemson’s best comebacks ever.
“He had a good spring and would have challenged for the quarterback position in the fall. But, I was not going to make any false promises about playing to him to get him to stay. Charlie Whitehurst is our starter heading into August practice.
“I can certainly understand Willie’s decision to transfer. I hate to see him leave, but he has to do what he feels is best for himself and his family.”
Bowden commented on his current quarterback situation entering fall practice. “We have all the confidence in the world in Charlie Whitehurst. He won the job from Willie during the 2002 season, and then had record setting performances on the field, setting not only freshman records, but overall school records.
“We also have confidence in Chansi Stuckey and Will Proctor and feel they can lead us this year if something were to happen to Charlie. Both of them had solid springs.”
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