- Associated Press - Monday, June 19, 2017

WACO, Texas (AP) - When Mike Sims arrived at Baylor University as a student in 1975, the football team was coming off its “Miracle on the Brazos” Southwest Conference championship season the previous fall.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports Sims knew he wanted to be a trainer and relished the opportunity to work under Baylor head coach Grant Teaff. What he couldn’t have foreseen was that he would be a trainer for the Bears’ football team for the next 42 years.

Baylor will lose one of its longest tenured employees in the history of the school when he leaves on Friday. He worked at 476 consecutive Baylor football games under eight head coaches.

Sims, 59, will stay in Waco to work at Southwest Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics.

“With all the changes going on, I felt it was time to make a move,” Sims said. “I’ll help Southwest Sports Medicine coordinate some things and will do outreach programs with different schools. I’ll still come out and watch the Baylor football games. I just hope I don’t drive the people around me nuts. I can’t sit down at a football game.”

Sims served six years as a student assistant as he worked toward his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before he was hired as Baylor head trainer Skip Cox’s assistant in 1981. In 1984, Sims became Baylor’s head trainer and was promoted to director of sports medicine in 1993.

Even as an undergraduate, Teaff could see Sims had a great future as a trainer.

“The first thing I notice about people is their intellect and work ethic, and he had those,” Teaff said. “Nobody has worked harder than Mike at Baylor. He was a tremendous asset to me at a young age and that continued as he became the head trainer.”

During his 18 years of working with Sims, Teaff saw how he not only handled the physical needs of players as they worked through injuries, but also saw how he helped them mentally work through the process. When players are going through rehabilitation, they often have more contact with the trainer than their teammates and coaches.

“When an athlete is injured, they have to go through the loss of what they love doing,” Teaff said. “I saw so many times how Mike worked with an athlete to help him get past an injury. Not only rehab, but also the mental aspect. He’s so good in that area. He always insisted on strong rehab, and they’d come back virtually as good as new.”

When working with injured athletes, Sims did his best to make sure they were healthy before they got back into action. Saturday game days gave him a goal, but he knew all injuries had different timetables.

“You always have the big picture, but our picture is will this guy be ready for Saturday,” Sims said. “If he isn’t, you let the coaches know so they can game plan around it. One of the tough things about the job is you become friends with the athletes. If one of them gets hurt it’s almost like a family member getting hurt.”

Sims worked with some of the best football players in Baylor history, including All-America linebackers Mike Singletary and James Francis, running back Walter Abercrombie, defensive lineman Santana Dotson and quarterback Robert Griffin III.

He remembers how vital it was to get Griffin ready to play for the 2010 season after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2009. In 2011, Griffin became the Bears’ only Heisman Trophy winner.

“Robert coming back from his knee injury was a big one,” Sims said. “When you’re working with a guy who had a pretty significant injury those are always important. The toughest part of the job is to call mom and dad and say ‘Sorry, your son just got injured.’ Another tough part is when an injury won’t allow you to play football anymore.”

Sims has seen Baylor’s training staff expand from two full-time employees to 12. He’s watched the trainer’s room evolve from five training tables to 13 as Baylor moved from a small room at Floyd Casey Stadium to a massive wing at the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center.

“Our training facility at Floyd Casey Stadium was the same size as the whirlpool room is now,” Sims said. “When I first came here, the training room took care of football and everything else. If you wanted something, you had to come out to the stadium.”

While Sims‘ 18-year tenure with Teaff was easily his longest, he learned to adjust to the needs of all eight Baylor head football coaches he worked with. He believes Baylor will emerge from its recent issues arising from the sexual assault scandal that cost former coach Art Briles his job in May 2016.

Baylor has always been part of my family,” Sims said. “My wife and both of my kids went here, so it’s something we care for. I think we’ll overcome it. It’s been tough but I can also see the bright side of it.”

Baylor coach Matt Rhule recently sent out a tweet, thanking Sims for his service: “Nobody has done more to help us in our transition than Mike Sims. He is pure class and we’re grateful.”

Sims earned the 2013 Southwest Athletic Trainers Association’s Most Distinguished Award in 2013, and he serves on the board of directors of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

Sims‘ legacy is seen in the many student trainers he’s mentored, including David Chandler, Alex Olson and Kevin Robinson who are currently on Baylor’s training staff.

“He’s been a great mentor and a very good boss,” said Chandler, who works with the Baylor men’s basketball team. “You can’t outwork Mike Sims. He’s always there for you and will help you at any time. The fact that he’s been here 42 years is a testament to how good a person he is. It will be very hard to replace him.”

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