Sims committed early to North Carolina, and as a freshman at preseason camp answered senior linebacker Keith Newman's challenge to any freshman to prove his manhood by wrestling him in the locker room. Newman and Sims tangled for about four minutes before being separated. "I wasn't afraid," Sims says. "My attitude is this: Who cares if you're going to get embarrassed? Are you going to stand in the back of the line and hope nobody calls on you? I'm going to fight until I win."
Sims lettered as a freshman and started the next two years, but he didn't emerge as a dominant player until last season with the arrival of Bunting, who told Sims that if he bought into his system and became a leader, the money would follow. It wasn't easy. "Most guys go into their senior year thinking they're going to be the Man," Sims says. "All I heard was that I was doing everything wrong."
Broadway rode Sims about his stance and his burst at the snap. "Ryan was used to the pace they'd had here before," Broadway says. "We really made him get after it."
Sims thrived in Bunting's aggressive defense, which demanded that linemen push upheld instead of reading and reacting to blocks, as the previous scheme had called for. For a player with Sims's leverage, agility and explosive-ness, the change was a godsend. Splitting time between the two tackle spots, he finished the season with 51 tackles and five sacks. (Peppers had 63 tackles and 9� sacks.)
"You always heard about Peppers because he was at a position where he had a better chance to make big plays," says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "But Sims was just as dominating. Our coaches pegged him as a guy you'd better have a plan for."
Millions of dollars may be on the horizon, but Sims isn't thinking only about his pro career. A communications major who is a semester short of a degree, he talks about opening pizzerias across the South, purchasing 20 to 30 acres near the North Carolina campus with the expectation that the university will be expanded, and renting out his parents' house after he buys them a new one. His company will be called Big Tyme, the nickname that Ronnie gave him in junior high.
"People think making $20 million or $30 million is big time," Sims says. "Big time to me is Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. Hopefully, I'll start with about $15 million and turn that into $150 million. I'm not just living for me anymore. I'm living for my kids and my kids' kids." Sims pauses, flashes a smile and gives a wink. "But I'm also 21. I'm going to have some fun with it, too."