WGRZ – BUFFALO, N.Y. – Darkness has a way of looming over Jake Simmons. The weight of the world lifted only by his night-light. Basketball.
“Without basketball, I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself,” says Buffalo State senior Jake Simmons.
“I could’ve been dead.”
Entering his senior year at Buffalo State College, the NCAA ruled Jake ineligible. Ultimately, his entire past reversed the ruling.
Growing up in Rochester, Jake handled adversity at a young age. With his father in prison, Jake’s mother was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which is a debilitating, incurable disease. To make matters worse, Jake’s step dad abused him, mentally and physically.
Memories still flicker in Jake’s brain. His family’s house burned down when he was a teenager, just moments after he rescued his mother from the smoke filled abyss.
“She had a cane and a walker, but she couldn’t use it because it wasn’t fast enough, so I had to hold her and help her out the house,” recalls Jake.
With her illness getting worse, Jake knew his mother was running out of time. Then, days before Jake’s high school graduation, she was gone.
“I lost hope. I lost faith in life. I lost faith in everything,” Jake admits.
And soon, Jake lost the will to live.
“I pulled the trigger and the bullet didn’t come out. At the time, I didn’t think it was a sign of me supposed to live,” Jake reminisces.
Jake bounced around foster care. He also started spending time with his biological father, Jake Sr., who had been released from prison.
“He was 15 months old, and the weirdest part is, when I came out of prison and got back with my son, he was 15 years old,” Jake, Sr. remembers fondly.
Things started to stabilize for Jake, until one October day. A severe car accident left him paralyzed for 10 days. Through his rehab process, he rediscovered his love for the game.
“Everything else I couldn’t control. I couldn’t control my car accident, I couldn’t control my step father’s abuse. I couldn’t control my mother’s sickness. But, what I could control was making my shot,” says Jake.
And, Jake shot his way onto the Buffalo State basketball team.
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