TUSCALOOSA — Sequestered in the southwest corner of the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility, Blake Sims began to throw, flinging one tight spiral after another to a bevy of Alabama student managers.
Players grunted in the weight room behind him. Strength coach Scott Cochran’s voice rose above them all, requesting more repetitions on the bench press as Alabama’s Pro Day began.
The commotion did not alter Sims. He continued to throw, joking between each toss and flashing an effervescent smile.
“I haven’t picked up a ball and thrown it,” Sims explained, “since my pro day.”
That was in early 2015. Sims broke AJ McCarron’s single-season passing record en route to a Southeastern Conference championship and appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
The three years following have been circuitous. Sims bounced around with three different Canadian Football League teams before returning to the United States in September 2016. Returning required a position change.
Sims was in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' camp as a running back last season. The team signed him to a reserve/full time contract Jan. 2, 2017. He was released seven months later.
“I had good feedback,” Sims said. “I felt like I proved myself that I’m capable of playing as a running back. Just want to keep working as hard as I can. I need to work on my blocking and on my pad level running the ball, so I have a lot of things to work on and hopefully I can be as good a running back as I was a quarterback.”
Wednesday morning reaffirmed Sims is still capable at his first position. Throwing routes to Alabama’s departing receivers “gave me hope,” the 26-year-old said.
“But it really wasn’t about me today,” Sims said.
Cam Sims reunited with his former quarterback Tuesday afternoon. Calvin Ridley came, too. Quickly, they reforged — or, in Ridley’s case, established — a rapport. It was necessary for Wednesday, when 80 scouts, five NFL general managers and four head coaches descended upon Tuscaloosa.
Ridley beamed after completing his drills. The throws were excellent. Ridley’s route-running was, too.
“I think I did real good,” the receiver said. “I can definitely work on a couple things — I videoed it and I’m going to look at it — but I felt like I did really good. Caught all the passes and I was in and out of my breaks pretty good.”
Lofting the passes Ridley, the game-breaker who was unquestioned focus of Alabama’s passing game placed Sims, perhaps fittingly, back to 2014 and his days as a quarterback tossing deep balls to another 6-foot-1, can’t miss prospect who was destined for a first-round selection.
“When I saw Calvin running down that field, I thought I saw No. 9,” said Sims, referencing Amari Cooper. “That’s what I saw. It’s some differences, but that’s what I saw.”
Sims continued his analysis. He envisions broadcasting when his football career ends. It’s not over yet, though. Perhaps Wednesday was a new start, one back at the position that endeared him to so many Crimson Tide fans.
“Nobody has said anything yet, but like I said, it’s more for them guys, it’s not for me,” Sims said when asked if teams have inquired about his quarterbacking.
“But, hey, I’ll take any call, any opportunity because I’m still out here pushing and I’m not going to stop.”