Sims had been a three-year starter with the Cougars, making a name for himself as one of the most talented and versatile running backs in all of college football. But he was faced with the choice of staying at Houston, making the leap to the NFL a year early or transferring to another school for his final season of eligibility.
He ruled out the NFL early. He wanted to graduate, as that was an important thing to his family.
But then came the decision that led to Sims landing at West Virginia playing for head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers.
“I feel comfortable coming here,” he said. “I saw down with my family and made the decision to visit, and it just felt comfortable.”
That feeling of comfortability was a major factor for Sims, who chose to stay close to home at Houston when he came out of high school – just a few minutes away from his Houston home. If he was going to leave, he had to feel at home wherever he went.
That’s partially where Holgorsen came into play. The third-year head coach was one of the assistants from Kevin Sumlin’s Houston staff who recruited Sims coming out of high school when he originally chose the Cougars over Texas Tech. Getting to play for a coach he already knew, in a scheme he already understood, have played a large part in making Sims’ transition easier than it could have been had he gone somewhere else.
“That played a big part in my decision,” Sims said. “I’m familiar with the offense already. I’ve basically been running this offense since my freshman year. It’s just different terminology you have to learn.”
Sims flourished in Houston’s offense from the time he stepped on campus as a freshman. In his first season he ran for 698 yards and nine scores and then ran for more than 800 yards in both 2011 and 2012, finishing with 11 touchdowns on the ground last season.
But what is perhaps the most impressive part about all of that was the way Sims was able to use his versatility to catch the ball out of the backfield – something he said he had never been asked to do on a consistent basis before he got to college.
He caught 70 passes for 759 yards as a freshman and finished his first three seasons with 1,707 yards receiving – the most career receiving yards of any player on the WVU roster this season.
“It was totally new. I didn’t expect to catch that many balls, but I can play a little receiver too,” Sims said. “I expect that same role (at WVU).”
Sims’ new position coach, West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider saw some of that versatility first hand over the last few years while he was on the coaching staff at Marshall and Houston played the Thundering Herd in Conference USA play.
“The way he carried himself when he was at Houston is the same way he attacks the field,” Seider said. “The one thing about him that’s been good for the room here is that any time he got a run or pass – whether the ball was in his hands or not – he finished. It’s the little things that I tell those guys are the differences between being a fifth-year senior and a freshman.
“That’s why he’s got a chance to play at the next level. He’s a competitor by nature; he’s that quiet guy that you don’t want to mess with.”