Roy Sr.'s conversation always returns to Brown, the best athlete he ever coached and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. "Big Jim never drank or smoked," he says. "His only weakness was the chicks."
"Roy Simmons is the greatest man I have ever known," says Brown. "Roy treated me so well during my first season in football that I went out for lacrosse purely because of my affection for him. He's the kind of guy you never want to let down. He was the reason I stayed in school."
At the end of practice on the day before that '57 lacrosse game with Army, Brown got into a fight. Simmons broke it up and took a punch on the back of the head. Everyone froze. "I think that's enough practice," said Roy Sr., and the stunned players dispersed.
As he walked off the field, Simmons grinned broadly. "Well," he said to an assistant, "I think they're ready for Army." The Orange won 8-6.
Things haven't always gone smoothly for the old man. Five years ago, his daughter Connie was hospitalized with lung cancer. He would sit by her bedside, trying to cheer her up. "He would never reminisce with her," says Roy Jr. "He'd just talk optimistically about the future, although there was going to be no future. Dad always had encouraging words for a losing team; he was always there to give hope. But Connie frustrated him because he couldn't coax or cajole another touchdown out of her. It was one game he didn't know how to coach.
"I'd watch him walk out of her room. His step would lose its spring as soon as he closed the door. And then he'd fall apart. I'd seen him lose lacrosse games, but I'd never seen him defeated."
In the days that followed Syracuse's championship win over Hopkins, the Simmonses basked in their celebrity. Roy Sr. got letters, telegrams and phone calls from former players, some of whom weren't sure he was still alive.
A week after the victory, Roy Jr. came over to his father's house for toast and coffee. His father's mood had changed. He was done talking about the game.
"You know, Slugger, you've got to be ready for '84," he said. "You're the trophy. Everybody'll come at you harder now."
He sent his son home with a poem:
From little rays of sunshine,
Come little blades of grass.
Today a college hero,
Tomorrow a horse's ass.