Delvon Simmons feels at home

Some people plan their travel destination by flying direct while others make a stop or two stops along the way. For USC Trojans junior defensive tackle Delvon Simmons, his original collegiate travel plan called for a direct route from McKeesport, Pa., to Lubbock, Texas.

However, travel plans don’t always go as anticipated, and Simmons found that being a Texas Tech Red Raider deep in the Lone Star State made everybody in his circle of mentors happy but himself, which is why he eventually rebooked to the West Coast and the bright lights of the University of Southern California.

Once recruited hard by Trojans former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Oregon, Simmons first listened to those who had their best interests at heart and not necessarily his, according to the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder.

“It’s been a long journey,” Simmons said.

“Coming out of high school, I didn’t have too much background and people watching my back. I had too many other people in my ear telling me where to go.

“For an 18-year-old kid and all these schools coming at you and so many opinions, I made the [Texas Tech] decision for other people, but I made this decision [to transfer to USC] for me. That’s how I got from Pennsylvania to Texas to Cali. I felt like this is the best decision for me.”

And the Trojans are glad that the personable performer followed his desires and is now a vital piece to the defensive line puzzle, according to the Trojans first-year defensive line coach Chris Wilson and is in strong contention for a starting spot along the defensive line opposite Trojans junior All-American defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

“Delvon is playing really well and at a high level,” Wilson said. “You can tell that he’s played in college already. There are moments when you see him flash and do some really neat things. There are also times when you see there is still a way to go because he’s still learning a new system. In terms of fundamentals and ability, he’ll help us.”

Simmons’ resume backs up Wilson’s comments about experience. As a sophomore with the Red Raiders in 2012, Delvon started 13 games in which he recorded 27 tackles, including six for losses along with two sacks and deflections, respectively. As a freshman, he appeared in 10 games gathering 13 tackles.

So now comes spring ball with the Trojans, and coming off a redshirt year, Simmons knows that he has a great opportunity to contribute to a defensive line that many are predicting will be the best in the Pac-12 next season.

“It’s shaping up pretty good,” said Simmons when asked about defensive line’s progress. “We have a lot of inexperience and experience at the same time. We look up to Leonard [Williams] and all the experienced guys because we want to be as good or better than last year.”

As for his own personal progress, Simmons is remarkably objective.

“My strength is stopping the run, but I need to improve on my pass rush,” Simmons said. “There are multiple things I need to improve on, but run stopping is one of my strengths.”

About as decorated as a prep player can be -- which included playing in the prestigious 2011 U.S. Army All-America Game -- Simmons said that he is a team player, and he’ll play any spot along the defensive line to help the team. Most figure he’s the logical candidate to replace departed defensive lineman George Uko, who left early for the 2014 NFL draft.

“I am playing wherever they’ve got me,” said Simmons without any hint of position preference. “They’ve got me at end, nose, whatever.”

Wilson is noncommittal where Simmons will play in the fall, but knows he will play.

“Actually, I am trying to find eight starters,” Wilson said. “With the teams you play nowadays, you’ve really got to develop a lot of depth. You have to play multiple guys in critical situations. We want eight guys that can help us win the Pac-12.”

When asked to compare Wilson with his former defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, Simmons politely dodges the question, but he does have high praise for his new D-line coach and their relationship.

“It’s coming along great,” Simmons said. “I am learning a lot, working and grinding every day and just listening and paying attention and doing my best.”

In talking with Simmons, you get the impression that he is a big-picture type of thinker, and while he knows playing football could develop into be a pretty lucrative profession someday, he knows from experience that sometimes things don’t always turn out as planned.

“I going to get my degree in sociology and after that if football doesn’t work out, I am going to be a nurse,” Simmons said. “In my family, we have a big family of nurses. I would like to work someday at a children’s hospital.”

As for Simmons’ immediate plan for 2014?

“We want to win the Pac-12 championship and go on from there.”

And if anybody knows something about destinations, it’s Delvon Simmons.