Skip to main content

Vanderbilt Football: Clark Lea's Outside-the-Box Hire Could Pay Huge Dividends

Barton Simmons' hire at Vanderbilt is an outside-the-box move for new coach Clark Lea
Barton Simmons, Vanderbilt Commodores football

247Sports' Barton Simmons joined Clark Lea's staff thanks to a longtime relationship

Well before Barton Simmons was even brought to West End, he was singing Clark Lea’s praises.

“I think it’s a perfect hire,” Simmons, then an analyst for 247Sports, said of the Lea hiring on his Cover 3 podcast in December. “I think he’s one of the best coaches I’ve observed close up.”

Evidently, the feeling is mutual. Lea has tabbed Simmons as the program’s general manager, overseeing personnel and roster development and playing a key role in recruiting and scouting.

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2021

Simmons and Lea first met at Montgomery Bell Academy, where they were teammates on the football team and fellow graduates of the Class of 2000. They took different paths out of high school; Lea opted to play baseball before transitioning to college football, while Simmons played four years of football for Yale. They also followed different paths professionally — Lea went straight into coaching, while Simmons went straight into sports media.

Now, their paths have converged in the very city where their friendship began.

Simmons had never worked for a college football program prior to his hiring. But through his scouting work with 247Sports, he’s developed a unique understanding of the recruiting domain — one that he’ll apply in his role of general manager. It’s an outside-the-box hire that could pay huge dividends for Lea and his program.

— Written by Simon Gibbs (@SimonGibbs26) for Athlon Sports' 2021 SEC Football Magazine.

Podcast: Previewing the SEC for 2021