Wednesday is a big day around town, as it’s the first day of school for students in the Napa Valley Unified School District.
The 2014-15 school year also kicks off Thomas Sims’ first year teaching and coaching at Napa High School, his alma mater, and where he starred as a two-way player in football.
Sims is transferring to Napa after spending last year as a teacher-coach at American Canyon High. He will teach freshman and sophomore English. Earlier in the summer, he joined Troy Mott’s varsity coaching staff as linebackers coach, assistant offensive line coach, and the Indians’ strength and conditioning coach.
“He’s everything you want to be working around kids,” said Mott. “He’s honest and he’s forthright. He’s giving of his time.
“To have him on board and to have another set of eyes and another opinion in our meeting rooms is really just a huge asset to us.”
Sims is a 2004 NHS graduate who was the Player of the Year on All-Napa County and All-Monticello Empire League teams as a running back-middle linebacker.
He rushed for 1,708 yards and scored 23 overall touchdowns while making 110 tackles, leading Napa to its second straight MEL title, a 10-2-1 overall record and into the third round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs during the 2003 season.
He was named as the MVP of the Napa High team. Sims was named first-team All-MEL at running back and linebacker.
Sims averaged 141.9 yards per game in total offense and 152.1 yards per game in all-purpose yards.
He scored 144 points and was named to Cal-Hi Sports’ All-State third team, the Sac-Joaquin All-Section Team, and the Sacramento Bee’s All-Metro first team.
“I’m just thrilled to be back at Napa High and being able to work with Coach Mott and Coach (Jerry) Dunlap,” said Sims. “They both helped me tremendously throughout high school. It will be fun to be on the field with them.”
Sims averaged 7.4 yards per carry. He also had 11 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception (which was returned for a TD) from the middle linebacker position as a senior.
He ranks among the all-time leaders in school history for tackles in a single season.
In Napa’s 56-28 win over Vintage in the 2003 Big Game, Sims rushed for 181 yards. It was the first winner-take-all Big Game for the MEL title since 1982.
Sims ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in single-season rushing yardage.
Napa ended the 2003 season ranked No. 18 in the Northern California Overall Top 25 and 43rd in the Overall Top 50 State Poll by CalHiSports.com.
Sims, 28, has been coaching on the Napa staff for the last few weeks. Official practices for high school teams began Monday, with players going into full pads on Wednesday. Napa’s annual Blue and Gold scrimmage is Saturday at 9 a.m.
“I’m excited to be at Napa High and work for (principal) Barb Franco especially,” said Sims. “In terms of being an administrator, she’s a great leader. It’s an excellent opportunity for me.
“Working with Troy is going to be amazing also, just because I have so much experience with him. I just think there’s a ton I can learn from him.”
Sims attended the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in New Jersey for one year. He played football there.
He transferred to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. An injury ended his football career. He graduated in 2008 from Willamette with a degree in English.
Sims was medically discharged from officer candidate school with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010 when he suffered a knee injury during training.
He returned to college and got his master’s in education with an emphasis in secondary English from DePaul University in Chicago.
For two years, he coached football at Lane High in Chicago. He was the team’s defensive coordinator and middle linebackers coach. He also ran the school’s strength and conditioning program.
“I demand a certain level of work ethic,” said Sims. “And that’s something we try to instill in everything we do, whether it’s drills or an exercise in the weight room. We want to be the hardest-working team around.”
Sims was on coach Ian MacMillan’s coaching staff at American Canyon last year, when the Wolves (10-2 overall) won the Solano County Athletic Conference title and got to the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. He coached middle linebackers, assisted with the offensive line, and ran the strength and conditioning program.
“I learned a lot from Ian MacMillan last year,” said Sims. “I’ve absorbed a lot of knowledge over the last three years that I’m hoping I can bring to Napa and just contribute in any way I can.”
Sims and his wife, Katelyn, make their home in Cordelia.