03. March 2009 · Comments Off on Get to Know Red Simmons · Categories: Archive 2009

Back when Rich Rodriguez was first hired a little over a year ago (man, it seems longer than that, doesn’t it?), many folks were asking how he might get up to speed on Michigan’s traditions. In his press conference he told us he got a copy of Bo’s book (assume that was JUB’s Lasting Lessons). I suggested a few additional items in a post titled ‘Michigan Tradition 101: Study Guide for Coach Rodriguez‘. One of the items on the list was this:

6. Sit down with Red Simmons Coach Lloyd Carr mentioned during his retirement press conference that one of the first folks that greeted him when he took the head coaching job was former track coach Red Simmons. Coach Simmons walked into Lloyd’s office, gave him some type of medal (would love to see it) and gave him this advice: When you leave this job, make sure you leave with your health, your friends and your family. The Red Simmons Invitational track meet is still held in his honor in Ann Arbor.

Red Simmons will turn 98 (that’s NINETY EIGHT!) soon and he’s been around this place for a long, long time. Word is that he:

  • Ran against Jesse Owens
  • Trained with Joe Louis
  • Was hired by Fritz Crisler
  • Per former RB Jamie Morris, old Red “knows where all the stones and bones are in this place”.   I bet!

I understand that he still runs the stairs at Crisler arena EVERY DAY to stay in shape. Coach Rod, sit down and talk this this man

If that didn’t convince you (or RichRod) that sitting with Red was a worthy endeavor, check out this profile on Simmons from Jo-Ann Barnas in the Free Press from earlier this week.    You’ll get the idea.  An excerpt:

In 1932, Simmons competed in the U.S. Olympic trials in track. He also ran in track meets in summer AAU meets. Often the field included [Jessie] Owens. Simmons said he never beat him.  The two weren’t strangers that historic day in 1935 at Ferry Field. Owens, then a star at Ohio State University, broke three world records and tied another in a two-hour span — considered one of the greatest one-day sports achievements in history.

Simmons was asked to work the event. At the time, he was a Detroit police officer — and the department’s star athlete in field-day competitions held across the Midwest and Canada.  A year later, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens would destroy German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s idea of Aryan superiority by winning four gold medals.

In 1972, Owens gave Simmons a plaque. Owens wrote: “Hi Red. My best to an old friend and foe.”

Mr. Simmons turns 100 next January.  Here’s the full Free Press piece, enjoy.

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