Sometimes making a good career decision isn’t the easy decision.
McMinn County assistant coach Nathan Simbeck is a former Cherokee player and has coached at McMinn for the past three years. Athens has always been home and McMinn has always been his school.
But the offer to become Knoxville Central’s offensive coordinator was too good to turn down. That didn’t make it an easy decision, however.
“I love McMinn and I will always root for them no matter what,” Simbeck said. “My family and I are just ready for the next chapter of our lives.”
Simbeck was a quarterback for the Cherokees and graduated from McMinn in 2012. He played for a short time at Louisburg College, a junior college in North Carolina. After one semester Simbeck transferred to Austin Peay.
That’s when Simbeck’s life took a dramatic turn as he was involved in a very bad car accident.
The doctors didn’t know if Simbeck would be able to do everything he was used to doing.
“I had so many complications going on at the time. I had some heart issues, I had a collapsed lung, I had an infection,” Simbeck said. “All that hit at once so my body had a hard time recovering and I think it ended up being two years of surgeries and recovery when it was all said and done.”
Aside from an occasional limp, Simbeck is fully recovered.
“I have nothing to complain about, I’m very blessed with how far along I am physically. I could be in a lot worse shape,” he said. “I’m just very thankful that I get to do the things I get to to. I don’t take for granted the things that I can do, like running and walking.”
One person stood by his side during his recovery. His girlfriend at the time, Molly, and now his wife, didn’t leave him. She even skipped a semester of college to be with him.
“I spent 26 days in ICU and she was there for every one of them,” Simbeck said.
Simbeck and his wife recently celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary and are expecting their first child in August.
Later in 2013 he came to McMinn to help out on the coaching staff. In 2014 he went to UT-Knoxville to finish his undergraduate studies and was a volunteer coach at Knoxville Central — something that would pay dividends down the road. The next year Simbeck came back to McMinn to coach quarterbacks before leaving to coach receivers at Anderson University in Indiana. Simbeck, it seems, always found his way back to McMinn and he’s been in Athens for the last three years. In 2017 and 2018 he was a defensive backs coach and was the offensive coordinator this past season.
Now the offensive coordinator position at Knox Central has come up and Simbeck has accepted that position.
“The Knox Central head coaching job came open and the guy that got hired, we worked together that first year, Nick Crayne,” Simbeck said. “Once he got the job he just asked me what I thought about this opportunity. It took awhile for it to happen, it was a very difficult decision. But at the end of the day I thought it was something good for me and my family.”
But Simbeck is very appreciative of everything McMinn Head Coach Bo Cagle and Defensive Coordinator Brad Bennett have done for him.
“None of these opportunities would be possible without Coach Cagle,” Simbeck said. “He has been a mentor to me. He gave me responsibility, he brought me to McMinn. That was really hard leaving this situation because I love it here. He is not only my mentor, he is my friend. I’m so grateful for what he has done in my life as a coach and the things I’ve learned from him. And Coach Bennett as well.
“I can’t tell you how much they have impacted my life and how grateful I am for what they have done for me and taught me. I know every opportunity in my life is possible because of those two men.”
Cagle believes Simbeck, the 2019 Region 2-6A Assistant Coach of the Year, will do well in Knoxville.
“He will have a lot of changes going on, changing schools and with a baby on the way. But his work ethic will take care of that,” Cagle said. “He has a great rapport with the players and he’s just a good, knowledgeable coach and I’m sure he will build on that. It’s hard to lose good coaches.”