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Ex-pro football player Stacy Simmons uses his background to teach fitness

Ex-pro football player Stacey Simmons spots Candy Saunders as she does a pull-up at an NFL Boot Camp for Women he runs.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Ex-pro football player Stacey Simmons spots Candy Saunders as she does a pull-up at an NFL Boot Camp for Women he runs.

Stacey Simmons was a football and track star at Dunedin High School and the University of Florida.

He then reached the pinnacle for any football player, making the NFL for one season with the Indianapolis Colts. Simmons went on to play in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League, including five years with the Tampa Bay Storm.

Since 1993, he has been a science teacher and part of the coaching staff at Pinellas Park High School.

Simmons, a Type 1 diabetic, also has participated in youth community sports programs as a trainer and referee in track and football for more than a decade. He did, however, step away from sports briefly in 2006 when a pituitary tumor was discovered on his brain.

"I underwent surgery, but I got back to work within three months,'' he said.

For six years, Simmons and Eric Wahlbeck, assistant director at Belleair Recreation and a former quarterback from Largo High School, co-owned Simmons-Wahlbeck Football Camp.

"In my opinion, Stacey brings a unique blend of personality, knowledge, skills and understanding to people," Wahlbeck said. "Kids loved to be around him, and he can coach pretty much every position because of his experience."

In June, Simmons started a new business venture, this time with Nate Lenz, a former Clearwater Central Catholic football player. The Stacey Simmons Sports Training facility at 9189 127th Lane, Largo, provides fitness training for men and women of all ages.

1 How's your overall health in 2009? I can't complain, although I've gotten bigger because of medicines. But, on the other hand, some of the (clients) I have also are diabetic, and I think my knowledge helps with their fitness.

2 In recent years, NFL players and concussions they sustain have been in the news. What's your opinion? In my day, a head injury would occur, and guys would just say, "Man, you got your bell rung.'' We'd just let it go. But now, thankfully with all this research, people are taking a more active concern and this will protect young athletes.

3 What's your favorite memory of playing in the NFL? The first game I played was against the Dolphins. We were on the field warming up, and I went right over to Dan Marino. I said, "You're Dan Marino. Dan, you are the man." Although he had a funny look on his face, I'll never forget that moment. I was just so excited to be there.

4 As a coach and trainer, what is your favorite age group to work with? I work with so many. The juniors and seniors in high school are working really hard because they have a year to develop skills to bring their level for expectations up. But I also get joy out of younger kids. You try to instill proper mechanics, and it's great to develop a good base.

5 How old should a child be before suiting up and playing tackle football? In my opinion, under the age of 8 is too early. Ages 8 to 10 is a gray area, and it depends on if the kids think they're ready, too. I think flag football is good, especially if they're 7 or under. Flag is non-contact, and that's an excellent way for young athletes to develop coordination for football.

Ex-pro football player Stacy Simmons uses his background to teach fitness 11/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 5:57pm]

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