From Warner-Robins to the Hall of Fame
Ron "Faarooq" Simmons has always been among the elite. Thanks to four dominating years as a Defensive Nose Guard at Florida State University, he is one of only seven former Seminoles to have their jersey number retired. As a sports-entertainer, he became the first black World Heavyweight Champion when he defeated Vader for the WCW Championship in 1992. And this past Tuesday, Simmons added another accolade to his resume: Hall of Famer. Prior to the 2006 Orange Bowl between Penn State University and his beloved Seminoles, Simmons was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame. During his storied FSU career, Simmons was a 2-time All-American and led the Seminoles to two Orange Bowl victories while redefining the Nose Guard position. WWE.com caught up with Ron this week to get his thoughts on his Hall of Fame induction and more.
WWE.com: What did it mean to you to be inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame?
Simmons: Oh man, are you kidding me? It doesn't get any better! Of all the athletes that have come through the Orange Bowl that they could choose from, I'm astounded that they chose me. I'm still floored by it, it was fantastic, and with the two guys I went in with (former Penn State running back John Cappelletti and former University of Miami running back Alonzo Highsmith), that's just an awesome group. The fact that they chose me before they knew FSU was playing in the Orange Bowl made it even sweeter.
WWE.com: Are you disappointed that Florida State couldn't beat Penn State (in this year's Orange Bowl) to top it off?
Simmons: Of course, but we played the best game we could. It came down to missing a couple of kicks, but if you know college football, you know that's been a problem for us recently (laughs).
WWE.com: What is your fondest memory of playing in the Orange Bowl?
Simmons: Well, we played in back to back years, 1979 and 1980, and we lost to Oklahoma both times. I don't remember any specific plays or anything, but rather that we went in there and gave them a good fight. We were kind of the Cinderella story underdogs both years and we came within a few points of beating them. We were undersized, undermanned, and underrated, and they had a ton of NFL draft picks on those teams. It would've been nice to win, but we did the best we could and almost pulled it out. I know I played my heart out.
WWE.com: Your four years at FSU were very early in Coach Bobby Bowden's tenure. Did you ever think 25 years later that FSU would be a national power and Coach Bowden would hold the record for most all-time Division I-A wins?
Simmons: Hell no man, when I went there I was a kid from middle Georgia. Everyone from my area went to the University of Georgia and such. When I told everyone I was going to Florida State, everybody in the state of Georgia went nuts. You talk about losing some friends, that was in the middle of summer but it was cold as ice because I had no friends!
WWE.com: Before the Bowl Championship Series, the Orange Bowl always had certain conference alignments so only certain teams got the opportunity to play. With the BCS being wide open now, do you think it's a good thing that players from all schools have a chance to join you someday?
Simmons: Of course, you always want to be included with the best of the best. If you're one of the best, it doesn't matter where you come from. Football is football, and if you're worthy of it, you should get what you deserve. And hey, the Orange Bowl determines national champions now, so you know the best are going to be there.
WWE.com: You are one of only seven players to have your jersey number retired by Florida State. Do you see anyone on the team now or recently that you think can join you soon?
Simmons: Well, I hope there's more in the future, because that means FSU is doing something right! I'm thankful that it didn't take them long to retire mine, I finished in 1981 and they retired my number in 1986. Back then, there were only three of us, and now 20 years later there's only been four more. I'm sure we'll see that group grow in the future, at least I hope so. It's still hard for me to believe when I walk in there and look at my jersey and my cleats and stuff that I'm one of the chosen few. I wouldn't trade one day of it though.
WWE.com: You've got a retired number, you're now in the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame…what would you think about being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame?
Simmons: Well damn, that would just top everything off. I can only hope that happens one day, I can only look forward to it.
WWE.com: You're a part of the upcoming WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour on the Road to WrestleMania 22. Can you give the fans a little info on what you'll be doing?
Simmons: It starts this weekend in Stamford, and we're going all around the country until we get to Chicago. I'll be one of the hosts, and I think the fans should come check it out. We have a lot of cool memorabilia and history, they have the play-by-play booth set up, and it's a lot of fun. I did it with Hillbilly Jim last year and we had a blast, hopefully this year will be better.
WWE.com: How much do you enjoy getting out there and interacting with the fans these days?
Simmons: I love it man. I love answering the fans' questions, whether they're about me or the business or whatever. Things like the Axxess Tour are a great opportunity to get out and meet them, and I love it.
WWE.com: Anything else you'd like to tell the WWE fans?
Simmons: Come out and see us on the Axxess Tour. And you tell some of those WWE Superstars that have played football about me being in the Hall of Fame now; I want to rub it in a little bit!