NFL tight ends Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham were all accomplished basketball players before they ever strapped on a football helmet.
All three have the unique ability to use their bodies to keep defenders away from the football – much like a low post player would in basketball when receiving an entry pass – and all three have soft hands and the ability to go up in a crowd and get the football – similar to rebounding a basketball.
Basketball skills certainly translate to the football field, and former Michigan State tight end Dion Sims is hoping to be the next breed of hybrid tight end.
Sims caught 36 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns last season at Michigan State with 29 of his 36 receptions (81 percent) going for either a first down or a touchdown.
Like Gonzalez, Gates and Graham, who all played basketball collegiately, Sims was offered basketball scholarships at Tennessee, Miami, Florida and others after being named to the Michigan Associated Press Class A All-State Basketball Team his senior season at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s when he averaged 21.9 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Sims finished fourth in the voting for the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award in the State of Michigan that year.
He played on the Michigan State basketball team briefly before leaving to concentrate solely on football.
“Having that first step, the initial burst and the suddenness and change of direction translates (to football),” Sims told Detroitlions.com during a pre-draft visit in Allen Park Friday.
“The footwork and creating space and keeping yourself between the ball and the defender translates to both sports.”
Sims is a powerful tight end at 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, but has soft hands and good speed. He put up 28 reps of 225 pounds at his Michigan State Pro Day last month.
“I’m an all-around tight end,” Sims said. “I’m different from all the other tight ends in this draft because I’m complete. I can block and be a receiver. I’m the total package.”
He’s been down in Boca Raton, Florida since declaring for the draft working on running routes with Cris Carter at XPE Sports.
“This is a passing league and it’s all about separation and coming out of breaks,” Sims said.
The Lions covet versatility in all of their players, but particularly at tight end. Sims certainly passes the eye test and is considered a mid-round prospect by most draft analysts.