Andy Sims was a difference maker when he starred on coach Jerry Boyce’s Fort Osage High School football teams in the mid 1990s.

The 1997 grad was an undersized linebacker who earned all-conference, all-district, Examiner All-Area and all-state honors and was named The Examiner’s 1996 Defensive Player of the Year.

Sims went on to star at the University of Central Missouri, where helped the Mules enjoy the same type of success as his Indians.

Sims was an all-conference linebacker for the Mules. During his senior season, he helped UCM finish with a 10-2 mark following a 48-17 victory over the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the 2001 Mineral Water Bowl.

Sims is part of two UCM teams that are currently in the Mules Hall of Fame, one as a player and one as a coach (2002-2007 in which he was the strength and conditioning coach).

And he is now the Simone Awards Committee Coach of the Year for 2017, as he was named the Kansas Coach of the Year Tuesday at the Simone Awards at Park Hill High School (where Trojans wide receiver Ronnie Bell won the Simone Award as the top player in the metro area).

Sims inherited a Blue Valley North team that was 1-26 in the three years prior to his arrival, and in his fourth year as head coach helped them win the first football state title in school history, upsetting two-time defending state champion Derby 49-42 in the Class 6 championship game.

“I’d have loved to have seen Coach Sims play at Fort Osage or UCM because I bet he played like he coaches – all out, give it all you’ve got,” said Blue Valley junior quarterback Graham Mertz, a Simone Award finalist who scored the game-winning touchdown in the championship game on a 15-yard run with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.

“Coach Sims was always known for being a great defensive coach, but he switched over to offense here and he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. He’s awesome – an awesome coach and an even more awesome man. He turned our program around and made us believe in ourselves when no one else did except him and his coaching staff.”

The Mustangs state championship team started the season 1-3, but Sims said he would never give up on a team he coached.

“I wasn’t going to give up on my players and believe me, I wouldn’t let them give up on themselves,” said Sims, whose team finished with a 9-4 record and a state championship trophy.

“It was a special season, with a lot of special players like Graham Mertz. If you think he’s special on the field, you should see him in the classroom or how he interacts with the kids in the hallways. He never missed a summer workout and he’s a leader and a great kid.

“And he can play a little football, too.”

When asked about the change from coaching defense to offense, Sims just grinned.

“It was time for a change,” Sims said. “I’m just happy we were able to put up 49 points in that championship game. But you know what? We clinched the win when Grant Hamel picked off a pass in the final seconds. As an old linebacker I don’t like to see 42 points scored against my team, but I sure like seeing the 49 we scored.”

While he has served as an assistant coach at UCM and Culver-Stockton universities, and head and assistant coach on the prep level at Excelsior Springs, Leavenworth and Liberty high schools, he believes he has found a home at Blue Valley North.

“We’re doing something special at Blue Valley North,” Sims said. “My family and I are thrilled to be a part of the Mustang family and hope to be a part of it for a long time.”