Burke High School football standout Del'Javon Simmons knows there will be an assimilation process now that he has signed to play for The Citadel.
The dapper three-sports star began the process by wearing an argyle sweater vest as he arrived at the Charleston County School District Building on Wednesday morning to sign a national letter of intent. His sweater had swatches of blue, a shade very similar to the "Citadel Blue" worn by the school's athletic teams.
Simmons knows more assimilation is in store. His days of having long locks are numbered, as all freshmen or 'knobs' at The Citadel have their head shaved when they enroll next fall.
"I've had short haircuts before," Simmons said. "I'll probably feel the wind hit my head. It will be all right as long I can play for The Citadel."
Wednesday's signing put the finishing touches on a brilliant senior season that almost didn't happen.
Back in August, Simmons enrolled at Oldsmar Christian School near Tampa, Fla. Simmons was to play basketball at Oldsmar Christian, which does not field a football team. He cited academics as the reason for the transfer, but then pulled a reverse and returned to Burke. He was outstanding in the fall, earning Region 6-AA football player of the year honors for the second straight year.
Simmons experienced tragedy Christmas Day when his mother, Constance Simmons, died unexpectedly from a sudden illness.
Simmons, who lives with his grandmother, Thelma Simmons, said his mother's death was the ultimate factor in his decision to attend The Citadel.
"It made me realize how important family is, how important it is to be close to home. I know there will be an adjustment. I was in Junior ROTC, so I know the adjustment concept."
Thelma Simmons has a no-nonsense approach to life and has kept her grandson in line.
"I'm real proud of him," she said. "He's a good kid who plays sports. I told him: 'You go in there and have good manners. You do whatever they say. Follow their rules.' "
Simmons will go down as one of the greatest athletes in Burke history. He played quarterback, defensive back, punted, kicked off and returned kicks.
His statistics for the past two seasons are impressive: 3,152 yards in total offense this year to push his two-year total to 6,315 yards. He passed for 61 touchdowns over the last two seasons while rushing for 28.
He's on track to collect all-state honors for the third year in a row on the basketball court. But Simmons' first love and best sport just might be baseball.
He was a bat boy for the Charleston RiverDogs when he was in the sixth grade in 2003.
He often took batting practice and tossed baseballs with members of the RiverDogs. He even answered the phone in the RiverDogs' offices.
Former RiverDogs general manager Derek Sharrer was impressed with the young man in a 2003 interview.
"He has a good enough head on his shoulders to really do something with his life, whether it's baseball or life in general," Sharrer said.
Simmons' mentor, Gus Holt, also had high praise for Simmons in the 2003 interview.
"He has tremendous ability and talent," Holt said. "If everything works out right, he'll probably end up in ... professional baseball."