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Thursday, August 29, 2002
Ex-linebacker Simmons dies at 32
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Former NFL linebacker Wayne Simmons, a starter on the Green Bay Packers' 1997 Super Bowl championship team, was killed early Aug. 23 when his car crashed and burst into flames. He was 32.
Simmons was driving too fast and weaving through traffic on an interstate in suburban Kansas City when his Mercedes veered off the freeway about 2:45 a.m., witnesses told police.
The car rolled several times and landed in a ditch, then the engine caught fire. Other motorists tried to get Simmons out, but they couldn't unfasten his seat belt.
Firefighters put out the fire and pulled Simmons from the car. No one else was in the vehicle. An autopsy was planned.
Coincidentally, Simmons was a close friend of Derrick Thomas, a Kansas City Chiefs teammate who also died of injuries related to a car accident. Thomas died in February 2000 -- a little more than two weeks after a wreck on an icy road left him partially paralyzed.
Simmons was drafted 15th overall by the Packers in 1993 out of Clemson. His best season came in 1995, when he had 68 tackles and four sacks. The Packers traded him to Kansas City during the 1997 season, and he was a starter for the Chiefs the rest of that season and in 1998.
He was a really fun guy to be around,'' said John Schneider, personnel analyst to Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "He had an engaging personality, and he was one of those throwback (Oakland) Raider type of characters.
"Maybe (that hurt him) in his career a little bit, his outspokenness and inability to follow the rules at times.''
Packers kicker Ryan Longwell was a rookie during Simmons' last season in Green Bay.
"He was very intense and kind of the rah-rah guy that got the defense going,'' Longwell said. "It's sad.''
The loss also was felt in Kansas City.
"It's such a shock,'' Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks told KCTV-TV. "Wayne was so energetic and tough. ... He was a very intense guy and I think one of the best linebackers in the country.
"He had a good career. It's really sad.''
The Chiefs cut Simmons on Nov. 17, 1998 -- the day after the team's notorious 30-7 home loss to Denver. With a Monday night television audience watching, the Chiefs committed five personal-foul penalties on Denver's last touchdown drive: three by Thomas, one by Chester McGlockton and the other by Simmons.
Simmons was picked up by Buffalo and played the last five games of that season for the Bills. He didn't play again in the NFL.
"On behalf of the entire Chiefs organization, our condolences and sympathy go out to the family and friends of Wayne Simmons,'' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said. "It is a tragedy anytime you lose an individual to an early death, particularly in an accident such as this.''
At Clemson, Simmons was a key player on the 1990 team that led the nation in total defense. One of his finest plays came the year before, when he intercepted a pass and ran 73 yards for a touchdown in a 34-23 victory over Florida State.
Clemson wide receivers coach Rick Stockstill remembered Simmons as a competitive and unselfish player, "a fun-loving guy off the field, a jokester, but very popular with his teammates.''
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