Isaiah Simmons' nickname shouldn't be as ironic as calling "Shorty" to the tallest person in a room.
But the most popular mock draft match for No. 4 of the Giants was formerly known as "Slimmons" in its high school hallways. It wouldn't be your first guess now when you look at the 6-foot-4,230-pound Simmons, one of the hardest-hitting specimens to enter the NFL in 2020.
"It was a term of tenderness, and it prevailed," said football coach Chris McCartney, recalling a 140-pound newcomer to Olathe North, Kansas. "But that changed pretty quickly when he started hitting the weights."
In fact, Simmon's first intra-squad scrimmage tackle as a true newbie at Clemson was so powerful that teammates are still talking about it. Simmons continued to deliver penalties, and he'll arrive at the NFL Combine next week to consolidate his number 2 position in the draft class.
"He has natural timing and punch," Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables told The Post. "He can flatten it while running, so he creates a lot of strength when he approaches the ball."
Saquon Barkley was the versatile offensive weapon that the Giants couldn't resist in the 2018 draft.
Now? The defense of the Giants took place 31, place 25 and place 24 in three successive seasons and desperately needs more sportiness and physicality. The unit has youth. Productivity is lacking.
Simmons is a solution. He played more than 100 snaps in five different positions last season – within the linebacker, outside the linebacker, slot cornerback, free security and strong security – per Pro Football Focus.
Clemson's Back-Seven meets daily as a collective, led by Venables, so Simmons didn't have to choose a position coach. He won the Butkus Award for best linebacker in college football.
"Tall, long, athletic player who can be a chess piece for a team if used properly," an NFL scout told The Post. "People will pull him up because of all the dream properties and then figure out where to play him."
Here's a second bit of irony on Simmon's journey: the do-it-all approach that prevented many college coaches from offering a scholarship to a three-star recruit "with no real position" is the same feature that holds his design inventory elevated.
While the Giants' Jabrill Peppers – a late Browns choice in the first round in 2017 – lie between safety and linebackers, Simmons Darius Leonard (Colts), Tremaine Edmunds (Bills) and Jamie Collins (Patriots) could mimic by doing the Passersby rushed to reduce reporting and negate mismatches for coordinator Patrick Graham.
"The difference between Peppers and Simmons is that Simmons has an enormous combination of size, weight, speed and explosiveness," said Lance Zierlein, design analyst at NFL.com. "He's not a very instinctive linebacker yet, but that should come. I'd be shocked if Graham didn't see Simmons as an even more versatile version of Collins."
Doug Catloth, the former coach of Olathe North, liked to watch Simmons with the eyes of the onlookers staring at the tallest and tallest child in the streets. He first met Simmons (and his family) as an elementary school student who "cried every night" when he ran 400 meters with his father. Maturity and weightlifting pushed its boundaries to state championships until the second year.
"People were in awe," said Catloth. "He filled the runway and defied the laws of physics and large bodies."
McCartney spent most of his 24 years as an assistant at Olathe North, but his first win as head coach ended as follows: one point behind when the opposing offensive ran out of time. Until …
"The ball jumped right into Isaiah's hands," said McCartney. “He just got it from nature and took it 55 meters for a touchdown. I said, "Thank you, Isaiah." So we broke down to go to the locker room after winning the game. He was so superior that he could do something like that. "
Or this: Simmons won a high school slam dunk competition against members of the basketball team by jumping over a number of eighth graders from close to the free throw line.
"I've trained a lot of children over the years," said McCartney, "but I've never had one like him who has brought his potential to the highest level."
Simmons leapt from day to day from one cafeteria table with friends to another. He turned between the long jump pit and the sprinter blocks.
But football took longer to realize that it cannot be confined to one room.
"He sets a good example, but when he needs to speak, he makes great speeches," said Diondre Overton, a roommate at Simmons Clemson. "When you stepped out on the field with him, you knew you were going to get tough and improve."
Simmons and Travis Etienne split in a team full of NFL prospects.
"They raced 60 yards: Isaiah won the first and Travis got the second," Overton said. "You don't often see someone so big who can hit so hard, as fast as they can to cover so much ground."
If the giants design Simmons, it could lead to an uncomfortable reintroduction.
Simmons had several Big Ten and Big 12 offerings – his older brother played in Kansas – but was keen on Arkansas. He was reportedly running the 40-yard run in 4.37 seconds during his unofficial campus visit and promised head coach Bret Bielema an immediate commitment if he was offered a scholarship.
No problem. Michigan and Clemson Simmons were soon on the trail when his recruitment exploded in the past few weeks.
Four years later, Bielema is the coach of the Giants outside the linebacker and a voice that will share an opinion with general manager Dave Gettleman. Maybe it has changed.
What is Simmon's best position? All if you value versatility.
"Given the NFL's limited roster size, why not?" Venables said. “He never asked to come from the field, not even for a water break. Not even in practice. "
Simmons owns a three-word black hoodie with white letters: Humble on the hype. He wore it in Olathe North just a few days before Thanksgiving.
A message to the next generation? Could be.
The key to success in New York if the Giants go in that direction? Certainly.
"It will be great in any environment," said Venables. “He is a social type who was raised properly and cannot be intimidated or easily influenced. He feels comfortable and confident in his skin and has a microphone on his face. "