Austin Simmons skipped two grades to play Ole Miss football, baseball

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Austin Simmons has already completed his associate's degree and is only two years from getting his bachelor's.

He's a star football player, one of several elite quarterbacks in the Ole Miss Rebels' loaded QB room, and a left-handed pitcher who tops out at 94 mph and could have a pro future on the diamond.

Austin Simmons is 17 years old.

He might not have a driver's license but over the summer he went from the No. 77 prospect in the 2025 class to skipping the rest of high school to enroll two entire years early at Ole Miss. Multiple FBS coaches told ESPN they could not think of another instance in which a recruit reclassified two years ahead.

"I felt like I could push myself to another level and I felt like I could achieve so much more by doing this," Simmons said. "Finishing my high school credits before I'm in 10th grade, if you have an opportunity like this to take another step further, you'd honestly not want to miss out on that opportunity."

How his future plays out as a two-sport athlete at a Power 5 school, trying to balance college as a 17-year-old kid, is unknown, but how he got to this point and how he was able to pull this off was no fluke.

The option to speed up the process started in sixth grade, when Simmons' family decided he was academically and mentally ready to move forward at a different pace. They thought he could handle being pushed, so he began homeschooling, taking high school courses through an online school.

Rather than sitting in a class five days a week and working through a semester put together by the school district, Simmons took classes seven days a week, including during the summer, to get even further ahead.

"When I was homeschooling, I would have my SAT prep teacher and she would always be there with me every single day," Simmons said. "She would watch me do my work and help me prepare for the SAT, so we were killing two birds with one stone. I was basically studying and trying to prepare myself for the SAT while I was completing high school courses in middle school."

Over the past two years -- his only two years in high school -- his week was filled to the brim with sports and academics. Monday through Friday, he would typically train with high school and collegiate baseball players in the morning, work out, run, train with his quarterback coach twice a week, start classes around noon and finish around 4 p.m., work with a tutor for a few hours and then attend practice if it was scheduled.

"That was really difficult, especially with doing all those courses," Simmons said. "The benefit has been my dad and my mom pushing me in academics. My dad has helped push me to get through and having him around made something that seems so difficult, it made it like it was pretty easy."

Simmons would work with tutors and his virtual teachers for four to five hours a day, seven days a week and flew through the curriculum. He started taking his first college courses in what would have been his ninth-grade year (2021-22) and took a full load of classes with 15 credit hours per semester.

At that point, he had fulfilled all his academic requirements and graduated high school. Because he had taken advanced courses and college credits, his grades were worth more than the typical 4.0 scale and he finished with a 5.3 GPA. He was technically still a high school student for athletic eligibility purposes, but he was then a college student academically.

Despite being homeschooled, he was still eligible to play for athletic teams because he met the requirements of regular attendance from the Florida High School Athletic Association by attending an approved home school program. He was managing his courses while playing football for Pahokee High School and threw for 3,161 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season -- by age, his sophomore year.

Despite Simmons' father, David, being a high school football coach, it wasn't until Simmons was 10 that David really thought football would even be an option for him.

"I really wanted him to play baseball, I never really wanted him to play football," David said. "He's a lefty, he can throw, he can hit and I thought he could be an MLB baseball player."

At the time, he was short and stocky, so his size didn't match up with being a football player. But his intelligence, work ethic and maturity shined through very early, showing his father he might have something special on the football field.

His size eventually caught up to the ability and he's now a 6-foot-2, 190-pound recruit with scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and plenty of other top-tier schools.

Simmons visited Florida in March of 2023, and that's when the idea of reclassifying from the 2025 class to 2023 was first broached. The Florida coaches knew the possibility was there and that it could benefit their program to get him on campus early for both baseball and football.

Simmons committed to the Gators in April, and the wheels moved even further into motion to start the reclassification process.

"We knew he could reclassify in the fall of 2022, we knew he could do it," David said. "Technically he's already done. ... We thought about what he could do on the field, if he could handle it and if he could do certain things athletically.

"We looked at that and thought if he just waited until 2025, he would have had his bachelor's degree by then, that was an option, as well."

The work had already been done, so it was only a matter of paperwork and the admissions process to get him into the university. He continued to hear from other coaches at other programs, however, including Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. The more he was recruited by the Rebels, the more he thought that Ole Miss would be the best fit for him.

"What really led to the decision of going to Ole Miss was really the conversation between me and Coach Kiffin," Simmons said. "He really understands quarterbacks and he actually knows how to coach with great quarterbacks, as well. He knows how to put them in the next level. He knows how to prepare them mentally and physically for the next level.

"Same as [quarterbacks coach] Charlie Weis [Jr.]. The offense and the way it has been [productive], like the numbers it's put up in the SEC -- it's one of the things that really stood out for me on my visit up there."

Playing for Kiffin, within the offense at Ole Miss and the opportunity it presented with both baseball and football were the ultimate factors that led to the switch.

Simmons doesn't know yet if he'll be able to play both sports at the professional level, but he was recruited to play both at Ole Miss.

"Honestly, I'll take whatever comes first, so of course I want to play both sports as long as I can," he said. "But, if there's something that really stands out that will give me a better opportunity, I'll take that one and just stick to it. I'm going to pursue both and try to play both sports professionally, because it's been done before, but I'm just trying to do that until something stands out."

Simmons' parents believed he would have more growth practicing and training with Kiffin, even if he doesn't play early in his career, than he would playing for a high school team.

Ole Miss has an entirely revamped quarterback room with Jaxson Dart returning, but the coaches added Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders and LSU transfer Walker Howard. Because of those additions, Simmons won't have any pressure to start right away and will be given the opportunity to get acclimated and adjusted.

Because of his age, there were concerns from Ole Miss and Simmons' family about how such a young kid would be able to acclimate to the college game.

"The academic part he has, and he's bigger than most freshmen," David said. "Plus, he's mature enough to do it. So, when he goes to Ole Miss, he'll be training with guys that are going to be first- and second-round picks."

Simmons is confident in himself and is pulling from his experience on the academic side, that he will adjust and handle the new environment. It's a unique situation and not one that was put together spur of the moment, but rather over the past four years through a dedicated process of accelerating his academics and remaining diligent in his routine.

"My mentality is really just to develop my mind, develop mentally and physically as a player and person," Simmons said. "It's a different type of environment compared to high school in a different state, so it's a different environment entirely, but I will just continue doing what I've done and develop myself as a player."