Simmons ‘honoured and grateful’ at football pitch dedication

LUMBERTON — The legacy of longtime Lumberton football coach Kenny Simmons will live on after he finally coached his last game as long as the Pirates play the game.

Now his name will live on forever on the field where these games take place.

The Kenneth W. Simmons Soccer Facility was dedicated Tuesday at Lumberton High School, a decade after the field was built under Simmons’ direction.

“I am very honored and grateful to Robeson County Public Schools for this recognition,” Simmons said during the ceremony. “From hearing about it in November, as the naming process began through to its approval in December, I experienced a wide range of emotions – from shock and disbelief to a sense of accomplishment and accomplishment.”

About 200 people attended the ceremony, including dozens of former players, along with parents, former staff, school administrators and Simmons’ family.

“Kenny, just look at this crowd that turned out to support you tonight in the heavy rain,” Robeson County Public Schools athletic director Jerome Hunt said during the ceremony. “This is just a testament to the kind of person you are and what everyone thinks of you. … To me, it is the greatest honor to have a facility named in your honor – especially to have it named in your honor while you can still enjoy and see it.”

“It’s kind of like a reunion,” Simmons told The Robesonian after the ceremony. “I’ve seen players and parents and former staff that I haven’t seen in years. It was just very emotional and it was a great night.”

Simmons said he dreamed of being in Lumberton, his alma mater, when he started coaching. He has now been the Pirate Boys’ football coach for 28 seasons and will remain in that role, coaching the girls’ team for 27 years before retiring after the 2021 season. Simmons is 325-227-52 as a boys coach and 281-209-31 as a girls coach at Lumberton, 1,125 games total. The Lumberton programs have resulted in Simmons’ career in 12 conference championships, and he has been named Conference Coach of the Year 11 times and Regional Coach of the Year six times. He was also voted coach of the 2009 East-West All-Star Game. Simmons had also previously successfully coached football, basketball and tennis at the former Avalon Academy in Dillon.

“That helps, that’s great, those are great stats – but it’s about being an outstanding role model and coaching and teaching properly throughout a 28-year career and using the game of football to touch the lives of children, and not just at Lumberton High School, but throughout Robeson County,” Hunt said.

“Over the years, my teams here at Lumberton High School have had many successes on the field. it was fun and rewarding,” said Simmons. “But what I’m most proud of is the culture and the tradition that our players and our football community have created and created.”

Simmons also taught physical education at Carroll Middle School in Lumberton from 1994 to 2021. Simmons also founded the Lumber River Soccer Association, a youth program that served as a feeder program for the high school teams, and he was instrumental in establishing the Robeson Cup tournament for local boys’ and girls’ high school and middle school soccer teams in Robeson County, which began this spring.

“Football in the Lumberton area and the Kenny Simmons name go hand in hand; You can’t mention one without talking about the other,” said Lumberton director Larry Brooks. “Through the game of football, Coach Simmons has positively impacted many men and women, not just at Lumberton High School, but across the county, through one game.”

“There isn’t a kid in this county that has had a football at their feet that Coach Simmons hasn’t influenced or positively influenced in some way,” said Gordon Burnette, chief communications officer for PSRC, who has been coached by Simmons from recreational to senior level High school level, The Robesonian said. “While Kenny Simmons’ name is synonymous with Robeson County football, he meant so much more to the boys and girls of our county. Coach Simmons has been an advocate, mentor and father figure to thousands of boys and girls across our county.”

Simmons is a lifelong resident of Lumberton and graduated from Lumberton High School in 1985. He was part of the school’s first football team in 1981 and also played wrestling and baseball for the Pirates.

As a student, Simmons had relationships with Alton G. Brooks and Finley Read; He now joins the former Pirates coaches in naming a sports facility on Lumberton’s campus, as the Kenneth W. Simmons Soccer Facility is adjacent to football’s Alton G. Brooks Stadium and baseball’s Finley Read Field.

“Just the thought of being mentioned in the same breath as these iconic characters is overwhelming,” said Simmons.

Simmons oversaw the construction of what is now the Kenneth W. Simmons Soccer Facility in 2010. The field was originally a practice field adjacent to Alton G. Brooks Stadium, where the team still plays its games. In 2013, the Pirate football teams started playing games at the top-notch facility.

“This guy has put in countless hours working this field,” said Adam Deese, Lumberton’s athletic director. “I came here in 2018; I have seen countless hours given by this man just for the work and maintenance and his desire for this field to thrive. And not just for this area to grow and develop, but also for its players who have gone through the program to grow and develop.”

Simmons will continue to influence the footballing youth of Lumberton and Robeson County. But when the Pirates boys’ soccer team takes the field in August for their 29th season under Simmons’ helm, it will be the first time they have done so on a field bearing their coach’s name.

“I guess that’s going to be a little different, maybe a little awkward, to be walking on this field for the first time in August and actually playing on a field named after me,” Simmons said. “But it’s not going to change anything – we’re going to keep pushing and keep working and trying to get the best out of these kids and trying to be as successful as we can.”

Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.

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