Simms' world is football, finance

by Harmon Marks |
Jan. 20, 2011, 1:00am

Simms

Three West Virginians played with the 1961 pro football Eastern Division champion New York Giants. Pictured in the top row right is Bob Simms, No. 83, a Charleston native, with another Charlestonian, No. 41 Gene Johnson, shown in the bottom row far right. Sam Huff, former VWU standout from little Farmington went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's No. 70 in the second row above No. 80. Simms and Johnson both played at Charleston High School and went on to Rutgers and Cincinnati, respectively. The Giants lost to the Western Division champs at Green Bay in the National Football\ League title game played in seven degree weather, not factoring in the wind chill, Simms reminisced when providing this photo. (Courtesy photo)

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Charleston native Bob Simms chased a lot of passes on the football field, but his biggest score came in the worldwide investment game.

Simms, second oldest of four brothers who played football at the old Charleston High and Rutgers University, spent part of three seasons with the New York Giants before finishing up his pro career at Pittsburgh following college graduation in 1960. His degree was a BA, with an eye on going to law school.

His Giants' roommate was All-NFL guard Jack Stroud, and midway through Simms' rookie year he was reminded by the former Tennessee All-America hero that it was wise to pursue off-season employment.

Those 1960 guys didn't approach the salaries of today's pro gladiators. Simms got on as a research analyst with Dominick & Dominick at the Park Avenue office. He would specialize in what was going on with the aluminum industry and foreign banks.

Pro football didn't last long, but Simms spent 14 years with Bear Stearns. That more than prepped him to go his own way, founding a global investment management firm. The next 20 years was devoted to Simms Capital Management, with a move from New York after four years to Connecticut.

Bob sold his firm in 2005 and later took on management of a partnership called Snake River Capital. He divides time in Connecticut and Wyoming, where he enjoys ranch life.

His passion for high finance has long since carried over into support of National Football Hall of Fame projects, such as the National Football Foundation's Scholar Athlete Award and "Play It Smart" program.

Simms was the first to fully endow in perpetuity one of the NFF Scholar Athlete Awards with his gift of more than $300,000. He is a booster for Play It Smart, which trains scholarship coaches to work with inner-city football youths and promote academics.

The 72-year-old Simms and his brothers received strong encouragement while growing up to make school work a priority over athletic participation. Bob still recalls the one-room elementary school on Capital Hill's Sunset Drive where each row of desks represented a grade. All four boys got National Merit Scholarships enabling them to play college football at Rutgers.

Oldest brother Gene lives at Birmingham, Mich. He's taught at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State, achieved a PhD in geology, and is known as an authority on ground water. Younger brother Steve was named to the All- East team after Rutgers' 1961 undefeated season. The former fullback still holds the school record of averaging six yards per carry for his entire career. Steve, a Charlotte, N.C., area resident, grew the Family Dollar discount chain to 4,000 stores, Bob proudly reports. Deceased brother Richard David tragically was killed some 10 years ago in a Florida auto accident. He was in the oil distribution business. The brothers' older stepsister, Helen Simms Lowe, still resides in Charleston.

The National Football Foundation was founded in 1947 "... designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people." Bob Simms has been on the NFF Board for 15 years. That's nothing new for him; he's been on the boards of several public corporations as well as the Rutgers University Board of Overseers.

"Football has always been a part of my life," he commented. Simms heads the NFF Board's Finance and Investment Committee. He expects the Play It Smart program, which has steered 150 inner-city kids to major college football scholarships, to be privatized because of cost. And, he looks for the College Football Hall of Fame to relocate from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta.

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