Former pro standout Tom Sims came to Illinois with seven years of NFL playing experience and begins his fourth year with the Fighting Illini. He is in his 12th season of collegiate coaching.
The Illinois defensive line continued to improve in 2007, with defensive end Will Davis' 9.5 sacks ranking fifth in a season and his four sacks at Indiana equaling the second-most in a game at Illinois. As a unit, the line combined for 34.5 tackles for loss and 28.5 sacks, an improvement of 12 sacks over 2006. The defense tied a school record with 40 quarterback sacks in 2007. For his performance on the year, Davis earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
The 2007 group allowed just two individuals to rush for over 100 yards and held five teams under 100 yards rushing. Sims also did a masterful job of rotating 10 linemen throughout the season, keeping the entire group fresh and enhancing their performance.
The Illinois defensive line took big leaps in 2006 as the group led a charge that saw 160 yards of total offense improvement per game from the 2005 season. The linemen alone posted 42 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. The defense held opponents to only 127 yards rushing per contest, which was over 100 yards better than the previous year. The line held three teams under 100 yards rushing, including 99 yards by Wisconsin, who led the Big Ten prior to the teams' meeting.
Prior to joining the Illinois staff, Sims spent four seasons at the University of Minnesota as the defensive line coach. In his last two seasons with the Gophers, the run defense held offenses to under 130 yards per game. The Gophers made vast improvements under Sims, pressuring the quarterback for 31 sacks in 2002 after only 14 the previous season. In 2003, his lineman didn't allow a single 100-yard rusher.
Prior to beginning his coaching career, Sims spent seven years in the NFL as a defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings. He was drafted by the Chiefs in the 1990 draft as a defensive tackle. He also participated in the NFL's Minority Internship Program in 2004, where he worked with the defensive line of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Sims played in more than 50 NFL games at defensive tackle. Twice he recorded 12 tackles in games against Pittsburgh and New England, while starting for the Indianapolis Colts. He also put on a show on Monday Night Football in 1992 while with the Kansas City Chiefs, posting two sacks and two pressures against the Raiders.
He started his coaching career at Western Kentucky in 1997, spending three seasons leading the defensive line. He then held the same position at Eastern Michigan in 2000.
Sims is a native of Detroit and was a four-year starter in college. He began his career at Western Michigan University, where he played from 1985-86, but transferred to Pittsburgh where he helped lead his team to a Sun Bowl appearance. In two years, he recorded 142 tackles and 12.5 sacks. He graduated from Pitt in 1990 with a B.S. in business.
Sims and his wife, Rene, have two daughters, Sydney and Zoe.