Abilene (Texas) High star running back Hershel Sims has gained plenty of respect with his tough, explosive running that frequently turns dead-end plays into breakaways. Yet the senior's most eye-opening moment this year came without a helmet on, when the Oklahoma State commitment opened up about the searing child abuse he and his siblings suffered through in their youth.
According to BigCountryHomepage.com, Sims and his brother endured one episode where they were tied down flat, with their wrists and feet bound to their bunk beds and a door handle, keeping the brothers prone while their stepfather beat them severely. At just 6 or 7 years old (the running back says he can't remember which), the Sims brothers were forced to endure what commonly constitutes torture.
"He just whooped us nonstop," Sims told BigCountryHomepage.com. "He took a break and came back. He used an extension cord and his fist. That went on for almost a week and a half."
In fact, the beatings were so severe that they eventually led to the discovery of the abuse against the Sims brothers. Shortly after that extension-cord episode came the first day of school, and Sims' younger brother was so badly injured that he could not sit down without pain.
That was all teachers needed to know to report Sims' parents, who were sent to jail; his stepfather for child abuse and his mother for failing to report the abuse.
With no nuclear family to turn to (Sims has never met his biological father) -- and a number of other uncles and aunts already behind bars -- Sims and his brother moved in with another uncle and aunt whom they deemed trustworthy.
Yet the Sims brothers were hardly the only extended family members in the house, with the running back describing a gaggle of distant relatives all living under the same protective roof.
That forced Sims into work, an experience which he cites as part of the reason for his early maturity.
"I've had a job since seventh grade," Sims told BigCountryHomepage.com. "My aunt had so many kids in the house that they were not able to give us a lot of stuff, so everything I had, I had to work for. I had to grow up sooner than I needed to and help out with my little brother and sister."
All of those hardships were caused by his stepfather and his mother's silence, yet the senior has somehow found a way to forgive both in an attempt to move on with his life. In fact, he's already back in daily contact with his mother, who was released from prison in August.
"I don't hold anything against her," he said. "She's always going to be my mom. And to be honest, I really don't have any hate toward my step-dad. I actually want to meet him and confront him and ask him why."
That's an amazing sentiment from a teenager still growing and learning, yet already mature enough to know how to be the bigger man. Given all the challenges in his past, there can be little question Sims will have plenty to draw inspiration from at Oklahoma State, and wherever life takes him thereafter.