Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker couldn't wait to get the 2009 season started, or really just be done with 2008. Sims-Walker battled injuries for most of last season and had to deal with personal things as well with the passing of his father and best friend during the season.
The former Central Florida standout reported to work this past offseason on a mission to prove he can be one of the top receivers in the NFL. He made it known to anyone who would listen that there were no more excuses. It was time to become an integral part of the passing game and someone the club could count on each Sunday. He sat down with jaguars.com to discuss his success in the first three weeks and what he expects of himself this year.
Troy Williamson earned the starting job opposite Torry Holt after a strong preseason. You were injured early in camp and only saw action in one preseason game. You started out the season at Indianapolis without a catch. Was that frustrating or did you know your time would come?A little bit. I hoped that it would come. Troy was playing pretty well, so why change anything? I didn't know how it was going to play out.
You have 12 receptions for 187 yards the last two games. What has changed for you?Nothing with me. The offense is starting to get going and we're looking downfield a little bit. The protection got better, running game is better, just the offense as a whole is better. That is the biggest thing.
Did you set any goals in the offseason?Definitely. The main goal I set was I wanted to be consistent week-in and week-out, like all the ones that are considered the best. They do it every week. You see Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss and those guys with 10 or 11 catches and 100 yards every week. That's just their average. I'm trying to do it every week and be consistent, and I can be one of those guys.
You were drafted in 2007 and missed the entire season. You only played nine games last year due to injuries so you're only 12 games into your career. Is everything slowing down for you now?I'm getting there, but not all the way. You still get some butterflies here and there around game time and I'm working on that. I'm getting pretty close.
I read something this week from a national writer talking about the chemistry between you and David. Did you guys spend extra time together this offseason?I think David and I have had a good chemistry or relationship. He has always looked for me in practice. It's finally starting to click in the games. It's time, especially for me. I'm in my third year. You can use all the excuses in the world, but it's time to play football and make plays for this team.
You were a regular here in the offseason. Is it nice to see some of that work paying off early in the season?I was here every day, didn't miss a day. I didn't care if I was sick and I knew it was the offseason. It hadn't nothing to do with getting paid. I was here to get better. It was all about this year coming up.
One of the first things you said during the offseason to the media was, 'No more excuses.' Why did you feel it was necessary to put that out there?That is what I had to get across to everybody. Everybody in the media was saying, 'He has the potential to be this or that.' Well, let's be it then. Let's knock all the potential out and just be it. Instead of what could he be, let's be it. That is the mission I am on right now.
You played at Central Florida with Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall. At one point, you were both playing in the secondary. Please explain.We lost five DB's in the first two or three games. Actually, I started the (sophomore) year out at corner. It wasn't really me that had to move to corner. We lost four or five safeties in the first two or three games. I was playing both ways in training camp and then I just locked in at corner because we had two senior receivers and then we had Brandon coming in. Coach (George) O'Leary told me, 'I need you on the field at all times,' so to put me on the field it was receiver or corner. I started at corner most of the year and then sporadically played a little receiver. Then a lot of people got hurt in the secondary so Brandon had to make the transition as well.
Could you have played corner in the NFL? It's a pretty tough position to play.I think so. It definitely is tougher. You have to be on that island and when you get a fast guy you have to play what you see. There is no guessing out there. You just have to play man-to-man. It's hard to guard somebody. It's easier for you to run a route against somebody than it is for you to lock someone down.
Have you been surprised at all by the success Brandon has had with the Broncos?Not at all. I used to see Brandon every day and I knew what he could do. He just came from a small school so he didn't get any publicity, but you can just go back and look at all his film in college. He played some of the best corners that are in the league now. We played against South Carolina Brandon's junior year, my senior year. Brandon and I both had 10 catches and 100-plus yards. They had one of the best secondaries in the country with Jonathan Joseph and Fred Bennett and corners. They had Ko Simpson at safety. Brandon and I were making plays but we just didn't get the publicity like the SEC and ACC schools because we were at a smaller school.
Why did you choose Central Florida?I had a lot of offers and I committed to Ole Miss coming out of high school. The next day I just didn't feel right. David Cutcliffe was the head coach and Eli Manning was the quarterback. I would have played a year with Eli and then they had Michael Spurlock behind him. I thought I would have a great shot to make some plays as a receiver early with Eli and then pick up with Spurlock. I went to take a visit there and the city wasn't that great. I rushed my commitment because I was getting frustrated with the schools coming to my house every other night. I just wanted to make a decision. It didn't feel right so I came back a day or two later after talking with my dad and decommitted. By the time I did that, there were a lot of schools that had already signed their class. I didn't have much left because all the other schools had used all their scholarships up.
Do you watch a lot of film of other NFL receivers?A lot. The first thing I did this offseason was call our receivers coach (Todd Monken). During the playoffs when we saw (Larry) Fitzgerald, Coach and I would text back and forth. He would tell me that he sees me making those same kinds of plays. You see Randy (Moss) and those other big-time receivers and I knew I could do some of those things. I have those same kinds of abilities but I have to put it all together. I just watched all the big explosive receivers, Andre (Johnson), Larry Fitzgerald and T.O. (Terrell Owens) and just watched what they do. I wanted to see what makes them so special because I know I have the capabilities of doing it. I just have to stay on the field and stay healthy.
Your father passed away last year during the season and you had a special relationship with him. You put your legal name on your jersey this year, Sims-Walker. How excited would your dad be right now?He would be on cloud nine right now. First of all, because of the name change because we had been talking about that since I was in high school. It is my legal name. I just added the hyphen. It's on my birth certificate and my driver's license. He would be ecstatic and not so much about the success the last two weeks; it would be more to see that I'm happy.
You went through a lot last year on and off the field with the passing of your father and your best friend. You only played in nine games but you had a breakout game against Pittsburgh with 107 receiving yards on six receptions. After the Pittsburgh game, did you feel like this is what you are supposed to be doing?Yes, I never had a doubt in my mind that I could do it. That is why I wasn't surprised. I talked to a reporter and they also talked to Brandon. He said, 'Mike had a good game and it's about time.' That's how I approached it as well. It wasn't a breakout game, nothing I wasn't expected to do, it was just about time I did it. That's how I feel right now. I haven't done much; I had a good couple of quarters in the Arizona game and I had a decent game in Houston. I haven't had a stellar game. The Pittsburgh game was on a big stage, but to me I haven't done anything yet. I have done just a little bit so I'm trying to stay humble and keep working.
You're only the receiver on the roster who played for the club last year. Did you expect this much turnover?They told me the room was going to be totally different, but I didn't expect I would be the only one in the room. I knew it was going to be a lot different; I just had a feeling. You can tell the business side of it. If a guy is in his last year of a contract and you still haven't re-signed him then you knew what was going on there. You could tell there were going to be some big changes.
How excited were you when you heard we signed Torry Holt?Very excited, just to have someone that has had so much success in the NFL and me trying to be where he is at. For him to come in and show me how he got there and the little things he does, like how he carries himself, I just try to model myself after him.
The club selected three receivers in this year's draft. You didn't seem bothered by it all while other players might have a different reaction.I probably have the most confidence you will ever see when it comes to playing this game. I don't care if they would have drafted (Michael) Crabtree. I don't worry about that. If I do what I can do and stay healthy, I don't care who they bring in. I have to help these young guys. I don't worry about the job part because I can't change any part of that. I help these guys because I know how it was when I was young. You walk into the team meeting and you don't even know where to sit down. It's the little stuff. I help these guys with whatever they need. I call them more than they call me. I just try to be that big brother. Torry has a wife and kids and is more of a home guy. I'm next in line so I just try to be a big brother.