Reservoir's James Simms

Reservoir senior linebacker James Simms is the Howard County football defensive Player of the Year. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / December 29, 2012)

When Reservoir senior linebacker James Simms isn't playing football, he likes to play in the kitchen, preparing summer Sunday dinners for his parents and three siblings.

And true to his style on the football field, Simms' recipe for success when cooking is simplicity.

"Meat. Steak and potatoes, hamburgers, meat loaf," said Simms, whose preferred game-day meal is spaghetti with bread and butter.

While connoisseurs of fine food may scoff at Simms' culinary tastes, his football coaches and teammates savor his lunch pail approach to the game.

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"He was definitely raw, but in the four years that I've known him, he's just been lifting weights, playing sports. His body has just blown up," Reservoir coach Bryan Cole said.

This season, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Simms recorded 98 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions, earning defensive Player of the Year honors, and more importantly, leading the Gators to their best season in school history (6-4), including their first playoff berth.

"We started our season in the spring, working together, lifting, doing 7-on-7 tournaments," said Simms, who has committed to play collegiately for Division I-AA Towson next year. "This is the closest team I've been a part of. Normally we work out (together before the season), but this year just felt different."

The season started off inauspiciously, with the Gators losing back-to-back games out of the gate, to eventual playoff teams Mt. Hebron and Atholton.

"We were a little angry about it, a little frustrated, but we didn't feel like that type of team," Simms said.

Indeed, Reservoir turned things around by winning four of its next five.

Although Simms prefers playing defense ("I like hitting people," he says) he was also a major part of his team's offensive success this year, catching a team-best 32 passes for 524 yards and seven touchdowns from junior quarterback Max Schuster.

"He's big. Tall and thick. He's got big hands," Cole said. "Wide-out, tight end, fullback. We tried to use him to our advantage."

Simms, who has also played basketball and lacrosse for Reservoir, made his varsity breakthrough last year at defensive end.

"It took us awhile to find out that teams were just running away from him," Cole said. "So we had to move him inside."

This year, after growing even bigger and stronger, Cole slotted his most dangerous defensive weapon in at linebacker, and Simms made an immediate impact.

"Rarely can you tell a kid what to do and he does it perfectly the first time," Cole said. "In the span of 10 yards, he reads and reacts."

In the overtime playoff loss to Atholton, Simms caught eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, and made 15 tackles.

And in the Baltimore Touchdown Club All-Star Game, Cole said that he watched Simms record a strip-tackle and fumble recovery on the first play from scrimmage.

Simms, who also got serious interest from Delaware and Stony Brook, says that he will likely study hotel or business management at Towson, but also has interest in coaching, having talked football with the young parishioners at his church.

"I'd love to give back to little kids," he said.