AUSTIN (KXAN) — Willie Simmons III was on his way to achieving the dream of many of his friends and teammates — playing college football.
He was one of three victims in a shooting that took place just before noon Sunday at the Arboretum Oaks Apartments in northwest Austin.
Simmons signed a scholarship to play at the University of North Texas. Monday morning, UNT’s Head Coach Seth Littrell, sent his condolences on Twitter.
“Willie Simmons was exactly the kind of young man that every college coach wants to recruit,” Littrell wrote. “His athletic talent was obvious, but his personal character, his selfless attitude and his passion for life made him a natural leader and the perfect teammate.”
Peter McFarlin played quarterback for the Wildcats, and he and Simmons were teammates for three years.
“As soon as I found out it was him, it was heartbreaking,” McFarlin said. “It was something that I’ve never felt, ever.”
Simmons, a captain, was a natural leader who turned heads on the field and uplifted others away from the gridiron.
“We were all together, and if anybody messed up, he would always be there to help them fix it and be there for them as a team and as a brother in life, that’s just how he lived.”
This was a trying year for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused uncertainty for months before the football season was scheduled to begin. Despite the ambiguity surrounding whether there would or wouldn’t be a season, Simmons continued to work and made sure others did the same.
“When all of this hit, all you wanted to do really was sit at home, eat and chill,” McFarlin continued. “But you know, he got me to come to the field, ‘let’s work out, let’s do this,’ you know? And we would get more people every day to come work out and get better.”
The team and community of Elgin are leaning on each other in this very sad time, not just for Simmons, but for the other two victims, including his girlfriend Alyssa Broderick, a former student and guard on the Elgin girls basketball team.
“He wouldn’t want us to suffer, he wouldn’t want us to suffer, he wouldn’t want us to be crying, to be in pain about him,” McFarlin said. “That’s how I feel like he would feel right now, is to keep on moving with life, stay strong.”