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Ricky Simmons just left my office with a smile, a friendly pat on the back and his traditional goodbye line: “It’s time to go out and spend another day in paradise,” he said, heading for a quick exit down the hallway. The second leading receiver on Nebraska’s fabled 1983 Scoring Explosion team was in Tom Osborne’s TeamMates office a half hour earlier with the same assurance – that he was drug-free and living every day in a precious way.
It’s been more than five years since Osborne, Simmons’ former head coach, inspired a cocaine addict to serve his time in prison and use the road to redemption to help others from going down that same wicked path. And that’s precisely what Simmons has done – transformed his down-and-out experience into a platform of motivational speaking.
Simmons Regrets Disappointing His Parents
Tuesday night, Lincoln’s KLKN-TV featured Simmons sharing his story with attendees at a football development camp at Lincoln North Star High School. Simmons’ late parents were devout Christians, his dad a junior high school principal and his mom an elementary remedial reading teacher. He told campers straight out how he traded in his NFL football career to become a full-time drug addict. Somehow, football got in the way of his using, and then after football, it got in the way of his life.
Prison and Osborne taught Simmons to look at life from a more positive perspective. He speaks at high schools, churches, group-homes and youth organizations. Tuesday, he was on a football field again because someone who believed in him helped him change. “I owe my second life to Coach Osborne,” he said. “That’s why I visit him every week for a few minutes … just to let him know that I’m still on the right track.”
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