Stacey Simmons is the type of person who, as soon as you meet him, you feel like you’ve known him all your life.
A gregarious man with an infectious laugh and relentlessly upbeat personality, the former football and track star at Dunedin High School and the University of Florida who played one season in the NFL has a way of making people feel at ease while still being able to get the best out of them.
Simmons’ post-gridiron career has him working with men, women and kids in a way that helps them get in shape by using the power of positivity and hard work, both through his job as a teacher and track coach at Pinellas Park High and at his training center, Stacey Simmons Sports Training.
Surprisingly, many of Simmons’ clients have a lot in common with the gridiron great — they suffer from diabetes. But Simmons is determined to make sure they don ‘t allow the disease to be a deterrent to training just as hard as anybody else.
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 13 years old,” Simmons said recently. “So I’ve been dealing with it for 21 years.”
“People are under the misconception that training is more dangerous if you have diabetes,” he added. “But people with diabetes can do just as much or more as those without diabetes.”
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Simmons and his business partner Nate Lenz, a former Clearwater Central Catholic fullback who works as a consultant at Raymond James, are currently working to get 501(c)(3) charitable status for the business so they can take their work with diabetics to the next level.
Lenz’s fiancée also has Type I diabetes, as do many of the center’s clients, making their desire to help other diabetics a labor of love that comes from the heart.
Patch recently sat down with Simmons and Lenz at their training facility off of East Bay Drive in Largo to discuss the past, present and future of a pair of local football heroes.
How did you two become business partners?
Lenz: I’ve been training with Stacey since I was a sophomore in high school at CCC. He trained me all the way through college, and he was instrumental in me getting the opportunity to play Division I ball (at Columbia). He helped me develop my work ethic, so after I graduated I wanted to give back and help him.
Simmons: Nate’s teammates started working out with us, too, and as he got into college and our camps started to grow, we decided to go into business together. In 2009 we opened a facility on Starkey Road and Ulmerton and started Stacey Simmons Sports Training. We moved in here in December.
What kind of training do you do at your facility?
Simmons: When I first started it was mainly speed and agility. I was helping kids get faster and more athletic so they were ready for the challenges of high school ball. But as we started to grow, we added more activities…Now we offer a woman’s boot camp, strength and conditioning classes and an NFL combine-style camp.
Lenz: After working many summer camps, I knew I didn’t want to be a personal trainer. But I enjoy working with Stacey, so I do whatever I can.
Simmons: Yeah, Nate is the brains of the operation!
What are your plans for the charity?
Simmons: I’m a diabetic, Nate’s fiancée is a diabetic and many of our clients are diabetics, so we started to realize we were surrounded by diabetics. So we decided to expand into that realm. We started to get serious about it two years ago, when we joined (Tampa Bay Ray) Sam Fuld’s Type 1 diabetes camp at USF.
I did a paper in college called “The Shot of Life.” The insulin shot is a shot of life for a diabetic. That is going to be the foundation of our charity.
Lenz: We want to mold what we do into charity camps and training focused on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. We also want to do monthly activities, go to Busch Gardens for example, to build camaraderie. Being around a lot of diabetics, it’s great to see the interaction of people who have gone through similar experiences together.
What do you tell people you encounter who have diabetes?
Simmons: Training is exactly the same for people with diabetes as it is for those without. They may have to check their blood sugar more often and monitor themselves a little closer, but that’s all.
I’ve met people who are so sick with diabetes and they don’t think they should be exercising because it’s dangerous. But in actuality, it would be better if they were exercising. They need that shot of life.
Stacey Simmons Sports Training is at 2167 Lions Club Road off of East Bay Drive in Clearwater. To learn more about the facility or make an appointment, visit the company's website at www.staceysimmons.com