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Florida Football

Redshirt Report: Simonds’ family grateful for redshirt

January 8, 2020
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During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2019 signees who redshirted with our Redshirt Report series. Today, we focus on how this past season went for offensive lineman Riley Simonds

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Riley Simonds, a former three-star offensive guard from Buford, Georgia, who was a part of the Gators’ 2019 recruiting class, dealt with a rather unusual medical issue for years.

One of the wrist bones was centimeters larger in one wrist than the other, which caused him some discomfort when he pulled his hand back, his mother, Sheila Thomas-Simonds, said. They tried several remedies over the years, including physical therapy. Nothing seemed to work.

The deformity doesn’t always jeopardize football careers, as several NFL players continue to play without having surgery to repair the wrists, she said. However, they learned of an optional surgery that would place a plate on one of his forearms and make both arms the same length.

With Simonds getting ready to begin his college career, they decided to get the issue taken care of. They’d rather him go through rehab at the beginning of his college career than have the pain flare up and become an issue down the road.

He had the procedure in March and did some physical therapy in Georgia, Thomas-Simonds said. When he arrived on campus in late June, the trainers took him to a hospital for further physical therapy for the first two or three weeks as a precaution.

Given his surgery and the fact that he didn’t turn 18 until August, redshirting seemed almost certain. He ended up only playing against Towson and redshirting.

That’s exactly what they had hoped for, Thomas-Simonds said. They requested that he redshirt to the coaches during the recruiting process so he could get acclimated to college life and focus on getting the strength back in his arm.

“We were grateful for that,” she said. “That’s one of the things that we asked going in, and of course, you never know who’s going to get hurt and who’s going to play. So, they can’t tell you that in the beginning of the season.

“I never wanted him to start at Florida as a freshman. I just want him to gain experience because hopefully he’s going to be there for five years, unless by God’s grace he gets in the NFL.”

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2020 Redshirt Report Series

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She said the coaches don’t tell players before the season if they’re going to redshirt for fear that they’ll lack motivation and take practice lightly, but they figured out pretty early on that their request was going to be granted.

Aside from rehabbing and adjusting to his new home, Simonds used his redshirt year to improve his body in the weight room.

“He’s lost some weight,” Thomas-Simonds said, after he son was listed at 303-pounds when he reported. “He’s only about 285 right now. Now that he’s ready to really being able to be in the weight room – and he was before – but I think now, it’s more of a mindset with him because he can do it. He doesn’t have to rehab; they’re not in season. So now, starting soon is when they’ll really be able to start conditioning and bulking him up.”

As he enters his first spring with the Gators, he looks to earn more practice reps and playing time. Doing so will be very challenging, as the offensive line will welcome in at least four new players and loses just one senior from the 2019 squad. Offensive line coach John Hevesy mentioned Simonds as one of the players who saw action at center during bowl practices as they prepared for life after Nick Buchanan. Thomas-Simonds isn’t worried about her son getting lost in the shuffle.

“I just hope he gets reps in,” she said. “There’s some more linemen in there now, and everybody’s fighting for a job, and that’s the mentality that Riley usually does pretty well with. Iron sharpens iron.”

Because he only played in one game, fans don’t really know what to expect from him. Thomas-Simonds said UF Director of Recruiting Operations Lee Davis-Begley described him very well during a conversation they had when he was a recruit.

“She’s like, ‘Riley comes off as very kind,’ and he is very kind-hearted,” Thomas-Simonds said. “He’s very sweet and loving and affectionate, but she’s like, ‘He’s a mauler. On the field, he will take your head off.’ Riley is a pretty aggressive player on the field.

“Riley has a pretty good football IQ. So, I’m hoping those things will be to his advantage and carry him to wherever he needs to be.”

Redshirt Report: Simonds’ family grateful for redshirt

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