David Sims‘ phone rang early last summer.
The new Eagles safety had spent training camp with the New York Giants. But around 8 a.m. on cut-down day, he found out the team was letting him go.
Sims had a short stint with the Bucs during the season before eventually signing onto the Browns’ practice squad.
“When I was with the Giants and I got cut, it put heartache on me because they made me doubt my ability to play,” Sims said. “So I had to go back to the drawing board and work 10 times harder than I already was doing so I wouldn’t be put in a situation like that again if I had the opportunity. It made me open my eyes, made me want to work harder than I already was working.”
But for much of this past Friday, despite a strong preseason, it looked like Sims’ hard work wasn’t enough. This time, the call came later, but it still came.
Browns general manager Tom Heckert contacted Sims around 1 p.m., telling him they were letting him go. It was a numbers game, Sims was told. The team was going with players who had more experience.
“I was shocked that I got released at first,” he said. “And then for eight, nine hours, I was stuck, wondering how? How’d I get cut when I had a preseason like I did?
“I was sitting at home just watching TV in a blank stare, and everyone calling me was like, ‘That’s B.S. I don’t know what else you could have done.’”
Sims even went to the team’s facility to sign the paperwork, but the transaction was never completed, and just after 9 p.m., Heckert called again, telling him he had been traded to the Eagles.
“It’s been a long time coming since 2005,” Sims said. “This is my dream, but I feel like my work isn’t over yet. Just making the team isn’t everything. I would like to produce for the team and be a starter.”
A long time coming indeed. As a high school player in Gainesville, Fla., Sims suffered a knee injury and wasn’t offered a scholarship. He didn’t know what to do. But his mom made one thing clear: He wasn’t going to just sit around at home and do nothing.
So he looked for a job. Sims spent a couple months working waste management and later spent time in the laundry room at the University of Florida.
“At first, I was just working with garbage,” Sims said. “I had to go house to house and lift the garbage truck and dump the trash. And then I went on to do the yard trash, like sticks and leaves, stuff like that.
“It makes you think, ‘I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life. I’ve got to have a change.’”
The turning point came in April 2006. Sims was working at a Sam’s Club and decided it was time to give junior college a try, enrolling at Butte Junior College in California.
“Every guy doesn’t have the mindset that I had coming up, the last six, seven years,” Sims said. “I was determined to get here. You’ve got to have that strong mindset, because junior college is a struggle. It’s a grind. There’s no one on you to get your grades like it is in the university. …You’ve got to have that strong mindset.”
Junior college led to Iowa State, and Sims has been trying to find a home in the NFL ever since.
He’s got a couple connections with the Eagles. Danny Watkins blocked for Sims when he played tailback at Butte. And he knows Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from when Iowa State played a bowl game in Arizona.
Sims said his strength is that he’s a solid tackler and always around the football. His weaknesses are technique and footwork.
The Eagles currently have starting safeties in place with Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Behind them are Jaiquawn Jarrett, Colt Anderson and Sims.
Sims thinks he can be a good special-teams player, but he also wants to compete for playing time at safety. As he continues his journey for survival in the NFL, he’ll never forget the times when he thought his playing days were over.
“I think about it everyday,” he said. “I’m very thankful to be in the position that I am in now.”
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