If life had gone as planned two years ago coming out of Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Phillip Sims would be getting ready to start another home game this weekend against Mississippi while wearing the No. 14 jersey for the University of Alabama.
He will indeed be wearing his familiar No. 14 Saturday, but he won't be anywhere near Tuscaloosa, Ala. Instead, he'll be on Virginia's sideline in Charlottesville as a backup to starting quarterback Michael Rocco heading into a game against Louisiana Tech (3-0), waiting for coach Mike London to turn his direction and tell Sims to get in the game.
Patience has become Sims' greatest virtue.
"It hasn't gone exactly the way I pictured, or the way I would've liked for it to go," said Sims, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore. "It would've been nice to come out of high school, pick your college and be able to do your whole four years there and be able to be the starting quarterback. In the end, I've had to be a bit more patient than I would've imagined, but I wouldn't change anything."
After hinting Monday there wouldn't be any change at the top of U.Va.'s quarterback depth chart going into this weekend, London made it official Wednesday by announcing Rocco would continue to be U.Va.'s starter for an 18th consecutive game. It wasn't much of a surprise to Sims.
"I think I've shown bits and pieces of what I can do with the time I've been given," said Sims, who has played in all four games, but who really only has been in for meaningful snaps against Penn State. "That's about all I can do. Do I feel like I can play on this level and help this team? I do. Right now, the coaches feel that Michael is the quarterback. I have no problem with that. That's a decision I respect, and it's a good thing for the team right now. If they feel I should go in and play, then I'll do what I'm asked to do."
Though Sims said he thoroughly understands what coordinator Bill Lazor's pro style offense is trying to get done, and feels like he won't "look like a clown" on the field, Sims admits he's still learning a foreign language.
"This will be my third offense in four years," said Sims, who was unable to win Alabama's starting job against AJ McCarron — a guy Sims said he stays in touch with almost every week. "I know a few offenses, and none of them have the same language. … I know when and where things are going to happen now. I'm not clueless when I go on the field."
London's biggest concern about quarterback centers around finding a player who can take care of the ball. Rocco leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with five interceptions. Sims has lost two fumbles in limited playing time. U.Va. (2-2 overall, 0-1 ACC) is 114th in the nation in turnover margin, averaging minus-1.75 per game in the category.
London also wants a quarterback who can extend drives on third down. U.Va. converted just three of 16 third-down opportunities last Saturday in a 27-7 loss at Texas Christian.
"You can't keep the ball and move the chains if you don't make third down," London said. "(Rocco has) been good at that previously. He can be good at that. He understands where he has to be or how he has to throw the ball, how he has to manage the team.
"(Sims) has something to prove, also. Everyone's looking at him. The great thing about those guys is they are competitors and they understand that what is best for the team is best for the team, ultimately."
Sims made his way to U.Va. partially to be closer to his father, who had heart surgery in June in Charlottesville. Sims said his dad is doing better.
Sims, who has completed 18 of 29 passes for 174 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions this season, gets a chance to keep tabs on his dad since he comes to Charlottesville periodically for follow-up medical appointments. While he's in a good place off the field, Sims still is finding his way on the field.
"I made my decision to go to Alabama coming out of high school," Sims said. "I wouldn't change that decision. It was a decision I made based on the facts I was presented. I wouldn't change my decision to leave Alabama and come to the University of Virginia.
"Nobody's psychic. Nobody knows the future. Nobody knew what was going to happen. It's easy to go back and say, 'You should've done this.' I think it's only helped me become a better player, and helped me become a better human and better man. Everything isn't going to happen on your time."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun