10 YEARS AGO, MY GOOD FRIEND RICKY SIMMS, JR. TOOK HIS OWN LIFE AT the age of 35.
Me and Rick had been best friends in high school; inseparable sophomore through senior years. We both played football and basketball at Eureka High School in Eureka, Mo.
We spoke often of attending the same college, but ultimately went our separate ways after graduating in 1992. Still, our bond remained tight up until the day he died. He was truly what I consider one of two best friends.
We both dreamed of becoming teachers and coaches as adults.
We concocted a plan to escape the madness.
Our daily commute from the city to rural Eureka High was 27 miles each way as part of St. Louis’ voluntary desegregation busing program. On most game nights, instead of returning to the city, we would post overnight at the homes of various teammates.
It was in those times that we shared some of life’s goals: Let’s teach and coach, we said. And the plan was laid.
Eventually, I realized I did not have the patience nor the fortitude to teach. Instead, I picked up a pen, pad and recorder and starting chasing the dreams of being a scribe.
Rick, on the other hand, some 19, 20 years after we spoke it into existence, was teaching and coaching at Study Middle School in Springfield, Missouri at the time of his death. He coached football, basketball and track.
My boy was really doing his thing. Not only that, he set records. The man made his mark by leading the 8th-grade football team to the Springfield middle school title in 2008.
The following piece was a testimony to the type of guy Rick was. He not only saved my life, but as an educator, positively impacted dozens of kids and young adults that came his way.