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McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (American Press Archives)<br>

McNeese State head men's basketball coach Dave Simmons. (American Press Archives)

Gazzolo Column: Simmons walks the walk for charity

Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:56 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Dave Simmons is willing to bare his soul for children.

Well, at least the soles of his feet.

Shoeless Dave will lead his McNeese State basketball team onto what is likely to be the cold floor of Burton Coliseum tonight in the name of charity.

The Cowboys head basketball coach will expose his footsies to the elements when McNeese welcomes Southland Conference newcomer Oral Roberts to town for the first time.

Apparently Simmons isn’t worried about first impressions.

Instead, he is showing his support for Samaritan’s Feet, a charity that tries to provide shoes for kids who otherwise would not be able to afford them.

Simmons will try to raise awareness to the cause by freeing his toes and showing off his soles as McNeese will host “Barefoot for Bare Feet.”

“I’m looking for free pedicures,” Simmons said.

He’s hoping that all eyes, well all the eyes of Oral Roberts players at least, will be set on his size 13s.

“Maybe it’ll distract them some when they see me standing around with no shoes on,” Simmons said.

He said he wasn’t worried any of the cats that call Burton home would come bitting his toes.

“I think most living things will stay away from them,” he said.

However, the feet of others is a bit of a concern.

“I hope none of our players or (assistant) coach (Dave) Dumars stomp on my toes,” Simmons said.

This is not the first time the McNeese coach has used his feet for a good cause. Earlier this season he took part in Coaches against Cancer, when college skippers wore tennis shoes for the cause. Coincidentally, he did that when McNeese played at Oral Roberts.

While Simmons is able to joke about his move, the cause is not a laughing matter.

According to a McNeese news release, nearly 300 million people go without shoes each day, and millions are plagued with foot-borne illnesses that may be preventable by simple protection.

Samaritan’s Feet has a goal to put 10 million pairs of shoes on the feet of 10 million children in the next 10 years.

It is hard to imagine having to walk a mile in those kids’ shoeless footsteps, but Simmons is willing to waltz up and down his bench to get people to think about helping.

“This is a small sacrifice compared to what other people have done,” he said. “I’m no hero. It is pretty simple; I could see a lot of reasons to do this and I could not think of one reason not to.

“When (Athletic Director) Tommy (McClelland) approached me about it, I was all for it. Especially when it comes to kids. As coaches, we’re in the public eye and we’re here to help kids out in any way we can. This is a tremendous effort to help raise awareness for this problem that’s happening.”

Simmons said he was surprised by the number of kids who don’t have shoes.

“You would never think that something like this was happening in our own country and our community,” he said.

Simmons is happy to give back, showing his players that it is important to not only be a part of your community but also be a leader within it.

“If I can use my position or basketball to help somebody, then I have to do that,” Simmons said. “We talk about this with our kids all the time, about how lucky they are and about how they can help others. This is a way to show them that.”

Simmons doesn’t know just how far his gesture will go. He hopes it not only raises awareness for the cause, but also a few dollars to help warm some kids’ feet.

“If I can put one shoe on one kid, then this is worth it,” he said.

It will also make Simmons a winner no matter what the final score.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com.

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