STILLWATER — Growing up, Ryan Simmons played rough with his sister Meighan.
And she with him.
And it was all good.
“My daddy, he pushed that upon us,” Ryan said of his father Wayne. “My dad is the ultimate competitor. He's always trying to win. That's how we were all brought up.
“We all played basketball and we had a hoop out front. If we were playing football in the backyard or whatever we were doing — who could do the best back flip, whatever — it was always a competition. And we all wanted to win.”
Winning remains a major motive, with Ryan moving into a starting spot on the Oklahoma State defense, filling the outside linebacker void where Alex Elkins used to operate. In a reserve role a year ago, he led all OSU freshmen with 23 tackles.
Meighan's still at it, too, as a double-digit scorer on the Tennessee women's basketball team and the No. 1 high school girls scorer in the history of the Greater San Antonio area.
Seems like maybe father knew best, with Ryan and Meighan, two older brothers and dad all fueling their competitive juices at home first back in Cibolo, Texas, near San Antonio.
“My older brothers, they set the prime example,” Ryan said. “They pushed me a lot and I always wanted to be like my brothers. My oldest sisters were more girls. But Meighan, she did the basketball and the rougher stuff.
“Meighan, she was pretty involved and she'd be playing with us just as we played as brothers. There were hard fouls, stuff like that. She was rough.”
Through it all, there were no hard feelings, at least none that lasted long.
And the competition was left on the court or the field.
“My brother is one of the most God-filled people,” Meighan told The Oklahoman last spring, when the Lady Vols were in Oklahoma City during the NCAA Tournament. “He's about to be 20, but in my eyes he's a very strong man. He's not a boy anymore.
“He knows what he wants in his life. He works twice as hard. He's one of the most amazing men I know in my life besides my dad and my other brothers. He does everything that he can to be the best teammate as possible.”
Simmons said he's just trying to fit in among a Cowboys linebacking corps that features seniors in Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis. Expected to add an athletic and energized aspect to the defense, at 6-foot and 242 pounds, he brings a history of massive production dating back to his high school days at prep powerhouse Cibolo Steele.
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.”