During Steele's 2010 Class 5A Division II state championship run, Simmons totaled 179 tackles, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries. That came on the heels of a 151-tackle junior season.
Simmons showed some of that playmaking skill in his limited action a year ago, serving as the backup to Lavey in the middle. With Elkins' departure, he was shuffled outside, where he shined in the spring before suffering a high ankle sprain.
Back at it this preseason, Simmons has drawn raves.
“He's really solidified our strength at linebacker,” Mike Gundy said.
Simmons said he's leaning on Lavey and Lewis in his ongoing transition.
“I'm doing OK. I still have a long way to go,” he said. “I can still improve upon so much stuff. Caleb and Shaun help a lot, because those guys know what everybody's supposed to be doing.
“But I'm focused on reading plays faster, knowing plays more, knowing the nuances coming out of formations. And just becoming a better all-around player.”
One thing seems certain, he won't shy from competition.
That's the Simmons Family way; even the way with extended family.
Ryan's cousins Aaron Curry and Eric Barton have played on Sundays in the NFL, as did his uncle Reggie Pinkney. Cousins Chris Curry and Patrick Pinkney played football at North Carolina and East Carolina, respectively.
So all along, Simmons has had clear role models.
“My brothers were always athletes and I saw them playing football,” Simmons said. “And my cousins were playing football. I saw them and I wanted the same thing.
“And I think it's helped me a lot in getting to where I'm at.”
That and some head knocks as the baby brother.
“It's all for a good cause,” Simmons said. “My brothers were just bringing tough love. You want to beat them up sometimes, have that power over them sometimes. But it's all love.”