Andre Sims Jr. knows he’s crazy.
The thought of 11 college football players running at you with a full head of steam and shouting obscenities triggers fear for most, but for the redshirt freshman, it draws a smile.
“It makes me feel wanted,” Sims Jr. said.
“Most people are not very fond of catching punts, but it gives me a rush. … You’ve got to be some kind of crazy to do it because you could potentially get hurt, but that’s what makes it fun.”
Sims Jr. has never caught a punt in a collegiate game, but he could get his chance this weekend, with the MSU football team’s (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) depth chart now listing him as a co-starter with junior running back Le’Veon Bell.
Head coach Mark Dantonio said the reason the team is giving the redshirt freshman a shot to replace sophomore running back Nick Hill — who has muffed multiple punts this season — is to take some of the stress off Hill, and because of the decision-making ability Sims Jr. has shown in practice.
“That would probably be the difficult part of catching punts,” Sims Jr. said. “Which balls to catch, how the ball carries, if it’s going to drop — there are all types of factors that go into catching the ball.”
Although the coaching staff hasn’t asked him to do backflips and cartwheels while the ball is in the air during practice this week, which they did during spring camp to replicate being disoriented, Sims Jr. said he can handle both easily and enjoys the challenge.
“I told you I was crazy,” he said. “I can do all that. … I’m an off-the-wall-type person.”
He added that his style of returning punts is “a little different” than what the coaching staff teaches — he might throw in an extra juke or two — but ultimately, he’s most concerned with doing whatever he can to help the team.
“The coaches teach us to go straight if you can. If you see a crease, hit it, but too much moving, that’s how they catch you,” he said with a smile.
“Everybody has a role, and everybody’s filling in and doing their role, so I feel like if I can do whatever I can on Saturdays to help the team win, then that’s what I’m going to do.”