Sims Opens Up About Abuse, Survival

Herschel Sims

It is the fourth quarter of the Texas Class 5A Division II state championship game and the Abilene High Eagles are leading 21-10 over Katy and looking to put the game away. Herschel Sims takes a handoff, uses a stutter step to get past the line of scrimmage and sets sail for the end zone. His 60-yard touchdown run puts the game away and brings happiness to the entire West Texas community.

Sims can hear his heart pumping, hear his deep exaggerated breaths as his legs glide while the black and gold clad fans roar. This is glorious but Sims's background is anything but glorious. This is a young man that has been scarred physically and mentally by an epidemic that rages on in America, child abuse.

Sims verbally committed to Oklahoma State in late April, and is expected to sign with the Cowboys next February. He will find a safe environment in Stillwater, a college community.

Safe is something he values after his experience of his early childhood. The 5-9, 190-pound speedster was much smaller and more fragile physically, but tough mentally as he dealt with the beatings of his stepdad. He recently opened up about that brutal chapter of his life when he was just starting school.

"It was a rough, rough time really. I can pretty much remember it like it was yesterday," said Sims to KTAB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Abilene. "Me and my brother were babysitting my little sister and my mom and stepdad went out to a movie. He came home and then like an hour after he got home that is when the abuse started happening.

"It happened so fast that it is hard to describe. It went on for like days and days during the summer. Then the first week of school my brother had trouble sitting down and the teachers reported it to the principal and that's how everything was found out."

The school officials informed authorities who then arrested Sims' stepdad and mother. As the pair were tried in court, one for the beatings and the other for ignoring them, the truth came out.

"Even before, not just that, anything we would get in trouble for we would get tied up with extension cord and whuppings, whuppings with the belt," described Sims in the television interview.

"Our feet would be tied up to our bunk beds and our hands to a door knob parallel to the ground. And then he would just whup us nonstop and then take a break and come back. Then when it happened with my brother and sister that is when he stopped using an extension cord and started using his fist and just really physically abused us.

"That went on for a good week, every day for a week and a half," continued the high school star. "To this day my brother has real bad scars on his back. My scars went away. I have a couple but they are not too bad. His scars when he takes his shirt off, you can see two or three real bad scars. You know like real bad wounds."

Sims's mother is out of prison, his stepdad is still in prison.

"She just got out on August 6," said Sims of his mother in the interview with KTAB-TV. "I pretty much see her every day. I don't hold anything against her. If she is going to be my mom, I'm going to always have that feeling for her.

"I really don't have any hate for my stepdad and I want to go see him and confront him and ask him why. He is in for 25 years to life and he is eligible for parole in 25 years."

Sims was recruited by just about every major football powerhouse in the nation but you have to understand his decision came down to being comfortable, comfortable with a lot of things. This is a young man that knows misery and how to persevere and fight through it.

He is also a very intelligent individual that has in the face of almost insurmountable odds made a conscious pledge to himself to climb above his past.

"It really don't bother me much because it made me the person that I am today," said Sims of the abuse and the hardships it created. "It is about a lot more than football. I have come from a long ways. Most people don't know what it is like to go without a parent, both parents. I have never known my real father. All I know is his first and last name.

"I see all the negative things that my family has been through, all the mistakes my aunts and uncles have made," continued Sims in the elongated interview. "I know the path they took and I don't want to go down that path.

"I see us struggle, see my aunt struggle. My aunt has so many kids in her house that she can't pay the light bill so that we can get food on the table. I see her struggle day in and day out and I know that I don't want that for myself and my kids. Just because everything that I've been through I didn't have much and I've had a job since the seventh grade.

"My aunt had so many kids so they weren't able to give us a lot of stuff, so everything I have had to get I have to pay for. I have to work to get everything. I had to grow up sooner than I needed to help my little brother and little sister. I want to be able to do that for my kids, get them everything they want. I see that with my friends they get just about everything they want. Not spoiled, as long as they do right, they get anything they want and I'm missing out on that. I want to be able to do that for my children."

Sims no longer lives in the crowded house with his aunt but instead has moved in with her oldest son to relieve some of the pressure at the aunt's house. Sims needs no supervision, he is a kid that can certainly take care of himself even though, ideally, that is not the way it is supposed to be for a young man his age.

One person not surprised by Sims, what he stands for and what he is striving for is Steve Warren, his high school coach at Abilene High School. Not telling his player's business, Warren clued Go Pokes in on Sims the day his decision was made to commit to Oklahoma State.

"They should be (excited)," said Warren when told of the delight of Oklahoma State fans over the pledge of Sims. "He is a great football player, but he is a tremendous kid. He is the kind of player that makes me a better football coach."

Sims, who has battled some nagging injuries only to still have a stellar season by any back's standards in this his senior season, lit it up as a junior with 264 carries for 2,337 yards and 40 total touchdowns. He averaged 8.9-yards per carry and averaged 155.8-yards a game.

"I knew I was a great football player, but if I wasn't willing to work then it wasn't going to happen," said Sims of plotting his future. "Football is my way out of here and it is my way to pay for college. Without football, then I probably wouldn't even be in school. If I didn't have football and all these coaches and all the support that I have then I wouldn't be in the situation that I am today."

That situation is strong, fast, smart, self reliant, and working toward turning around the misfortune of child abuse and creating a miracle of success. Sims already owns a Texas high school championship ring but his championship is in playing the game of life and beating all the odds that tried to build a wall in front of him.

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