Rob Sims will wear Detroit Lions silver and blue Saturday evening, even though his blood contains traces of orange and brown.
When the Lions host the Browns this weekend in the third preseason game of the year for both teams, Sims, an offensive lineman from Macedonia, will encounter his hometown team. More important, he will face his dad's old team.
The late Mickey Sims played defensive tackle for the Browns from 1977-79. About a month after Rob Sims came out of Ohio State University and was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round (128th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft, Mickey Sims died of a massive heart attack.
He was 51, and he never saw his son play in the NFL.
''He meant everything,'' said Rob Sims, a 2002 Nordonia High School graduate. ''He never pushed. He let the game come to me. He let me develop. He was always in my corner. He was always at my games. He was a great man, period. Without the football, without all that, he was just a great man.
''He always wanted me to be passionate about the game, and this is my fifth year in the NFL. I still talk to him. I still ask for his advice. I just hope he's watching over me.''
When Sims played for the Buckeyes, he was still relatively close to his father, mother, Brenda, and younger sister, Robyn. In Seattle, that wasn't the case. His move to the Pacific Northwest combined with his father's unexpected death created tough times for his family.
''It was a wild four years, but I think football helped us get through it,'' Sims said. ''A lot of prayer, and it's paid off.''
Sims, 26, is much closer to home now. After ending his status as a restricted free agent by signing a one-year tender offer with the Seahawks, they traded him and a seventh-round draft pick for defensive end Robert Henderson and a fifth-round selection in early April.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Sims said he was caught off guard, though he felt changes in the Seahawks' front office and coaching staff altered his situation.
''It's a loyalty thing,'' he said. ''When you think you've given Seattle all you've got, it's just hard to say goodbye. You've got friends there. You've established things with people out in the community. I thought I had a real good year last year, and I thought I was gonna be re-signed out there long term and maybe finish my career out there. It's just hard to make a transition, [leaving] a place you pour yourself into.''
For the Lions, Sims has solidified a position at which they've had problems for years -- left guard. A consistent starter since his second year as a pro, Sims bounced back last season after being sidelined for 15 games in 2008 with a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery. In 2009, he missed two games with an ankle injury but started the other 14 in which he appeared.
''Rob has done a good job,'' Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. ''He has experience in the league, [even though] he's still young. Once he got a grasp of our schemes and our terminology and the way we do things, you really saw him take a big step. He was sort of feeling his way a little bit in the OTAs [organized team activities]. Also, I think he separated himself once we got to training camp. That will mean a lot.''
Aside from his father's career, Sims is familiar with the Browns in a couple of other ways. Browns President Mike Holmgren was Sims' first coach in Seattle.
How was their relationship?
''It was good,'' Sims said. ''To the naked eye, it wouldn't seem like that 'cause he was yelling at me all the time. He was on me so hard. But he's a great coach. He's a great man. Part of the reason I'm here today is because of him. He pushed me. He threw me to the wolves, and he didn't accept mediocrity.''
As for the other connection, Browns linebacker Jason Trusnik was a teammate and classmate of Sims at Nordonia.
''I remember watching games and finding out after each game how many pancakes he had,'' Trusnik said. ''He used to just put people on their backs left and right. With that kind of power and that kind of size in high school, he did really well.''
Sims is still doing well -- on and off the field. He's engaged to Natalie Nathan, whose father, Tony Nathan, is a former Miami Dolphins running back. The couple are expecting their first child in November, and their wedding date is set for July 16, 2011.
And even though he was initially frustrated with his departure from Seattle, Sims sees the silver lining in coming to Detroit.
''People in the Midwest, they're the best people,'' he said. ''It's cool being in Detroit now because I'm close to home. It's got a home feel to it here. These are my type of people. It was always important for me to come back.
''It's a lot like Cleveland. It's just hard-working people. These people work hard. They support their teams. Seattle was a great town. It just didn't have that Midwest feel to it. It wasn't a Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit. Don't get me wrong. I liked Seattle, but it just wasn't home for me.''
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/browns/. Follow the Browns on Twitter
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