Blake Sims still finds himself adjusting to a compressed, 8-on-8 brand of indoor football.
From the 50-yard field, sideline walls, running-start receiver motions and rock ’n’ roll pageantry, it presents a much different aesthetic than anything Sims experienced collegiately in the Southeastern Conference.
But the former Alabama quarterback is beginning to see some parallels between his time with the Spokane Shock and the NCAA juggernaut.
“Here in Spokane, it feels like I am in college,” said Sims, who passed for a then-Alabama record 3,487 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. “The fans here are very hands-on with the team like they were in Tuscaloosa.”
And he hasn’t taken a snap.
Sims was recently battling a hamstring injury, the same malady that kept him from flourishing with the short-lived Alliance Football’s Birmingham Iron in the spring in 2019.
He went undrafted after helping Alabama reach the 2014 College Football Playoff, but the 5-foot-11 Sims had brief stints as a running back with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sims had a cup of coffee in Canada with the Toronto Argonauts. He was in Australia, too, playing for the Wollongong Devils of the National Gridiron League.
At age 30, Sims hopes his fifth professional league – the Indoor Football League – will help give him the opportunity to display the same dual-threat ability he showcased to millions in college.
“I am thankful for the opportunity,” Sims said. “I walk by faith, so I trust that this is where God wants me. “I am always willing to improve. I am enjoying the game, the coaching staff and teammates.”
Shock veteran quarterback Charles McCullum, who is 185 yards of shy of the IFL’s all-time career passing record, has been a good teacher.
Coincidentally, McCullum also played his college football in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just not for legendary coach Nick Saban.
McCullum, 36, starred at NCAA Division II Stillman College, a three-mile drive from Alabama’s campus.
“Very down to earth. Not selfish at all,” Sims said of McCullum, the starter.
McCullum and Sims are the team’s only quarterbacks, but Sims also spends time at running back.
Sims, who once ran a 100-meter sprint in 10.69 seconds on his Atlanta, Georgia, high school track, has played a variety of roles.
Even movie roles.
Sims had a 2020 cameo in the football-themed Disney+ movie “Safety” where he played the very short role of a quarterback at Florida Atlantic University.
Saban, who helped Alabama win its most recent national title in January, helped Sims take on his varying pursuits.
“He taught me so much about football and taking things those things applying them to the real world,” Sims said. “My time at Alabama has helped with other teams, to help pick up my teammates.”
The third-ranked Shock (4-2) host the defending IFL champion Sioux Falls Storm on Saturday at the Spokane Arena. The Shock beat the Storm (4-3) 50-32 in their previous meeting last month.
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