MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Never mind what Charles Sims told the media Tuesday, which wasn’t much, considering he may go down as the most introverted 1,000-yard rusher in college football history.

Instead, read the text message Sims sent from WVU last week to a former high school coach in Houston: “COACH-I LOVE THIS PLACE.”

Stephen Hill couldn’t have hoped for a more reassuring report. Having worked as offensive coordinator at inner-city Westbury High School during Sims’ junior and senior seasons, Hill understood what a “mama’s boy” the running back was. And he saw how that desire to stay tethered to home led Sims to spend four years at the University of Houston.

Now that Sims has shifted his fifth college season to West Virginia—some 1,300 miles away from mom—Hill was giddy over his ex-player’s giddiness.

“Charles is so tight with his mother, I wondered how he would do over there,” Hill said. “That’s why the text made me feel so good, because it meant he made the right decision.”

Sims turns 23 soon. He doubts he could have coped with such a cross-country move at 18.

Heck, he couldn’t bring himself to move to Lubbock—or even take a weekend visit—when Texas Tech offered a scholarship in 2009.

“Nebraska offered too, but Charles didn’t take a single official visit,” Hill said. “I encouraged him to at least go for the free plane ticket and the food, but he wasn’t interested. He wanted to stay close to home.”

Boise State and UTEP constituted Sims’ only other offers, but Hill understood why powerhouse programs overlooked a player who didn’t travel to camps or attend junior days. “The only thing anyone knew of him was what they saw on film,” said Hill, noting how the violent and overcrowded post-Katrina atmosphere at Westbury High wasn’t exactly inviting for recruiters.

DISREGARD WHAT YOU know about the Friday Night Lights version of big-budget high school football in Texas, and listen to Hill set the scene at Westbury.

“We lifted weights in a small portable building where the floor was caving in. And the field we practiced on hardly had any grass—it was basically just dirt,” he said. “Our total football budget was $2,500 for the year.

Allan Taylor/MetroNews

Graduate transfer Charles Sims takes a handoff during fall camp at West Virginia, where the 75-degree practices are a pleasant change from the Texas heat.

“There were 45 to 50 kids in some classrooms with only 35 desks, so you had to get to class early just to get a seat. It was tough.”

Yet the lack of resources built Westbury into a close-knit team, said Hill, who in 2011 became head coach at The Kincaid School, a private campus where he coached WVU quarterback Ford Childress.

“Our time at Westbury was rewarding because the kids made it that way,” he said.

The night that made Hill proudest, and highlighted Sims’ playmaking ability, came in Week 2 of the 2008 season as Westbury visited Class 4A power Brenham.

“We’re behind 22-8 at the half, playing at one of these schools where they shut the whole town down on Friday night,” Hill said. “Charles is usually so quiet, so shy—he just doesn’t talk—but this night he comes up and says ‘Coach, we can beat these guys.’ Then he tells me we should be running these rub routes where we dump the ball to him when he’s isolated on a linebacker.”

As Westbury stormed back in the second half, Sims made plenty of catches in space before tying the game on a 32-yard touchdown catch with 21 seconds left. By the time Westbury pulled off an incalculable 43-36 upset in OT, Sims had compiled 202 yards on 20 carries and also thrown a touchdown pass.

“That,” Hill said, “was really Charles’ coming-out party.”

NEVER MIND ALL the times the shy kid didn’t speak up. Rather, rewind to a Westbury practice when the inattentive yapping of three players in the secondary led the docile Sims to detonate.

“You three—GET OVER HERE!” Sims blasted. “I’ll beat all three of y’all!”

Sims told Hill to throw a deep pass, and he dared the three jabberers to stop him from catching it.

“Now, these were three starters—two corners and a safety,” Hill said. “But Charles got through all three of them at the line, and I floated a pass that he caught 15 yards behind them.”

Sims spiked the ball in the dirt and yelled back, “All you guys ever do is talk! Why can’t you just shut your mouth and work hard!”

Hill was as shell-shocked as the players, whom he noted “kept their mouths shut for the rest of practice.”

FORGET FOR A moment all the compliments heaped upon Charles Sims for his touchdowns and dodged tackles. Instead, absorb what one Westbury teacher imparted when the newly-hired Hill began checking on players’ classroom behavior.

“I was just making sure Charles wasn’t acting out or getting involved in any BS,” Hill recalled. “And the teacher told me, ‘If this school was on fire and I had to race in to save one kid, Charles Sims would be the one. He’d be the one.”

SIMS MIGHT HAVE spent his final season playing at Texas Tech—and on Oct. 19 playing against WVU—if not for Houston coach Tony Levine restricting the back from transferring to American Athletic Conference programs, teams on UH’s 2013 schedule and any FBS school in Texas. Unable to play for former Cougars offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, Sims turned his eye toward reuniting with another ex-Houston coordinator, Dana Holgorsen.

He also considered Cal, though upon visiting Morgantown in June, Sims said he felt comfortable enough to commit on the spot. Six weeks later, he’s growing comfortable in Holgorsen’s system and feeling comfortable amid preseason practices on 75-degree afternoons.

“Down there in Houston it’s 105,” Sims said, “but this weather here’s lovely. I can go all day in this.”

Like the text message showed, he loves this place.

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  • yoyoma

    Great story and glad to see excitement picking up for the season

  • rwcoog

    Kid let his team in Houston down by bailing out. Injury and fumble prone.

    • Bagelknot

      Wow! Just let the kid be happy. You sound like a bitter peron.

    • Brian

      This is what we call butthurt.

      • UH FAN #0

        You Mad Bro? Did you forget all of Casey Keenum's six seasons with Sim's supporting him. You think Casey would be in the NFL without him? Award after award, Sims keeps racking them up. Levine was to selfish to let him play and steal the spotlight. I guess you didn't attend any of the booster club meetings where Levine was jealous of Sims Popularity. Sims was the Star, the face of the program, and Levine couldn't take it any more, he wanted his face on the billboard off Hwy59. Its UH Fans like you for the reason I stop donating. UH Booster club is full of Levine queens, and not suprised to find them here. Sorry bro, no UH censorship here, The truth can be spoken.

      • DonaldH

        Good GPA?

        • Michael Wright

          He got his degree.

  • Ben S

    Happy for Charles & WVU. He is a humble kid with great talent. Gonna miss him at UH but maybe the light will shine brighter & may he find some real happiness & growth. #GOCoogs Pulling for Charles & the eers this season.

  • Helen5844

    We are going to win against Oklahoma. Just wait and see. Convincingly!!!!! Glad to have Charles Sims on our side. Welcome to the beautiful mountain state. LETS GOOOO

    • big tom

      give me your phone no. i want to play a huge bet with you

      • WV07

        lil tommy, more negative comments. Daddy must not of told you he loved you when you were a boy.

  • big tom

    he sounds like a real gamer,,, now it's up to the coaching staff to put him in the position to perform at a high level... unless that happens, it's just hype.
    the offensive line is so very inexperienced and i really don't know the talent level/
    guess we;ll find that out at okla..
    and ireally think we will be clobbered that weekend but hopefully it won't hurt their spirit

    • Shawn

      You sir are a loser! It must be out of your character to say something positive for once. I really wish you would stay off the site. You're a joke!

      • big tom

        you can't take the truth

        • WV07

          You need to take your own advice,lil tommy. The truth is you ARE a loser with nothing positive ever to say. Please go away, this is a site for WVU fans.

  • UH FAN #0

    Wow, I almost got teary eyes reading this article. A long time FORMER UH booster club member couldnt' take it any more when Levine destroyed our team. Charles Sims was the front man, the golden boy, the leader of the pack, the truth, and UH totally collapsing, FBI raids, Money Laundering, FEMA Camps, what more do i say. Even though Levine tried to keep him down, but Sims eventually conquered UH and the police state. You guys are pretty lucky to have him at WV. Good Luck Sims, don't forget UH Fans loved you, if it were our way, Levine would be the one in the unemployment line.

  • Hop'sHip

    Nice story. Thanks for sharing it.

  • wvmom

    It is great to have some depth at the RB position for once

  • Charlie

    Charles...welcome to WV! I wish you well and God's speed my brother. Stay healthy, do the right things, and be a silent yet strong leader for this team and soon you may be able to fly your Mom to any NFL stadium in the country! Now go get it done.

  • Brian

    Just fell in man crush love haaaa

  • Maxxajay

    Great report Allen. I loved it when Charles said "I LOVE THIS PLACE "

  • Bobby M

    Glad he's come to his sense. Its the most beautiful place on Gods green Earth! By the time he's done he'll wish he was there the whole time!

  • rekterx

    I am excited to watch Charles play. I wish we had him for more than one season.

    We need some hot August weather before we go to Oklahoma.

  • WVUGRAD1995

    Allan, you keep this type of reporting up and I may find a spot for you yet!

  • Doug

    Charles sure sounds like a wonderful kid! I wish him luck, but from what I've heard, he'll be a great asset to the team if he can stay healthy. Let's Gooooooooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!!