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    Ernie Sims Takes Time to Relax After Weekend of Giving Back

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    Courtesy of Jim Henry, FanHouse.com

    METCALF, Ga. -- This small country town, four miles from Florida's state line, is Ernie Sims' sanctuary. This is where Sims can relax and enjoy life at a slower pace with his new bride and their menagerie of beloved animals. Monday afternoon was one of those welcomed days.

    "I am exhausted, but it's all worth it," Sims told FanHouse

    Sims, the ninth overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Florida State and one of the newest Philadelphia Eagles, enjoyed a whirlwind weekend in nearby Tallahassee, Fla. Sims zigzagged nonstop from Friday morning to Sunday night, fulfilling obligations for his popular and expanding The Ernie Sims Big HITS Foundation

    Many professional athletes provide mere lip service to making a difference in the lives of youth. Sims and his family deliver in a big way. The word "HITS" means "Helping to Instill Tools For Success."

    It began with a youth football and cheerleader camp, followed by a celebrity flag football game that saw the NFLers score late to avoid being shutout. Saturday featured a youth track meet, a silent auction and black tie party. Sunday capped the three-day event with car and dog shows. More than 800 youth participated in the events. 

    Sims, 25, took a deep breath Monday morning, and trained for two hours in preparation for the start of training camp in less than two weeks. 

    The Eagles, of course, have plenty of questions, starting at quarterback after trading away veteran Donovan McNabb. There's also the debate surrounding Michael Vick, who has been steadfastly backed by the organization since his recent 30th birthday bash, where his co-defendant in a federal dog fighting trial was shot.

    And Sims is likely to be one of the team's new starters on defense at weakside linebacker following his April trade from the Detroit Lions. He was also one of two linebackers on the field in nickel packages (pass defense) during the Eagles' organized training sessions. 

    Sims finally exhaled late Monday afternoon, punctuated by a wide smile. 

    "The foundation and what we are doing for children makes me feel great," Sims said.

    "I was blessed because I grew up in a family where my parents cared for us, were always there for us. I don't want to see our children fail. They are our future. Reaching out and helping make a difference with children is important to me and seeing them smile is an unbelievable feeling."

    Sims established his foundation in 2008, and his goal is to provide support to community-based organizations that offer services to disadvantaged youth and young adults. 

    Sims points to his parents as positive role models and his strong ties to Tallahassee for reasons behind his foundation. 

    His father, Ernie Jr., played football at FSU (1977-81) and his mother, the former Alicia Bennett, was an All-American sprinter for the Seminoles (1980-83). Sims' younger brother, Marcus, also played football at FSU before he transferred to North Alabama in 2009.

    "I love Tallahassee. It's where I grew up, where I was raised and I accomplished so much in Tally," Sims explained. "There are a lot of great athletes there, a lot of great people. Once I made it to the NFL, I knew this is something that I wanted to do for children." 

    Sims is also determined to assist organizations that support animal humanity, and it's part of his foundation's mission statement. Following his football career, he wants to become a veterinarian and open an animal hospital. Sims is a pet lover -- but not your usual pets. 

    At his home, he has pet boas, pythons, spiders and a large aquarium with a shark. Sims can go traditional, too. He has two horses. Sims' dog show on Sunday was actually a pit bull parade, where he said he was anxious to team up with Vick in Philadelphia to help animals. Vick served time for dog fighting and killing pit bulls. 

    "I want to get on the same page (with Vick) to show he wants to help and what he did is in the past," Sims said.

    Of course, Sims' main football priority is helping secure the Eagles' future. 

    Sims played in 59 games with the Lions, starting all 16 in each of his first three NFL seasons before fighting shoulder and hamstring injuries last year. He was credited with 420 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. He also had four forced fumbles and one interception. 

    Sims' departure leaves the Lions with zero of the 39 draft picks that Matt Millen, the former Lions president and CEO, made from 2002 to 2006. 

    Detroit won two games last season after it went 0-16 in 2008. The Eagles, meanwhile, went 11-5 last year, losing to Dallas in the NFC Wild Card game. 

    "People don't realize just how happy I am to be in Philadelphia," Sims said.

    "It was unfortunate that we didn't win in Detroit because we had great players. Our intentions were to win but it didn't work out that way. Losing was killing me and taking the happiness out of football for me. Being traded was the best move to happen in my career. The (Philadelphia) fans, a new city, the organization. I can't wait to get started."

    It won't take long for Sims to catch his breath, even though the planning for his 2011 foundation's events is already underway. 

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