JD Kaiser, right, Statesboro High grad and Georgia Southern baseball player, is the recipient of the first Simmons Strong Scholarship. He is pictured with Crawford Simmons, son of the late Jim Simmons. Credit: Simmons Strong Foundation

JD Kaiser, son of Jeff and Kristi Kaiser, was recently awarded the inaugural Simmons Strong Scholarship in a special ceremony during Georgia Southern’s football game on November 19.

The scholarship and the foundation from which it comes were founded earlier this year in memory of beloved Statesboro High School and Effingham County High School baseball coach and teacher Jim “Slim” Simmons, who passed away in 2021 after a heroic battle with cancer.

Following his death, friends, family members, and colleagues discussed how to best honor his years of leadership in the classroom and on the diamond. The Simmons Strong Foundation was founded to do exactly that, by providing scholarships to local student-athletes and financial support for families facing hardships due to cancer treatment/diagnosis.

Slim, as he was known by his friends and family, edged, honed and sculpted the lives of the students entrusted to his care with the same energy and devotion he committed to maintaining the ball fields. By providing scholarships to local high school and college student-athletes, The Simmons Strong Foundation hopes to continue to impact lives in education.

Members of the Simmons family at the March ceremony naming the Statesboro High School baseball field after Jim “Slim” Simmons (Photo Courtesy Statesboro High School)

In addition, to honor Slim’s heroic decade long battle with cancer, the Simmons Strong Foundation recognizes the many hardships that families can face when going through the same thing. Families in the local Statesboro, Georgia, community can apply to receive support for life’s basic necessities such as food, rent, transportation, and more.

Coach Jim “Slim” Simmons with family, (from left to right) daughter-in-law Meredith, son Crawford, wife Lisa, and daughter Addison (Photo Courtesy Simmons Foundation)

“Jim was my Georgia Southern baseball teammate and life long friend,” said Greg McMullen, Simmons Strong Foundation co-founder and board member. “Slimmy’s spirit, leadership, and courage impacted countless lives through his role as a respected teacher, valued colleague, dynamic coach, trusted teammate, caring friend and devoted family man. Jim was many things to many people and it is a privilege to be involved in the founding of the Simmons Strong Foundation to extend his legacy. The goal of the foundation is to make continuing positive contributions while remembering Coach Simmons as a man who made a real difference in his community.”

Kaiser is the first recipient of the sports scholarship, and GSU baseball Coach Rodney Hennon shared some of the qualities that made him an obvious choice for this honor.

“It is with great joy that we name JD Kaiser as the first recipient of the Simmons Strong Foundation Scholarship.  JD embodies many of the same qualities that Coach Simmons modeled, and I know he would be very proud to see JD recognized for his efforts. JD is a hard working, humble, selfless young man who is an outstanding teammate and leader within our program, and he is very deserving of this special honor.”

Georgia Southern University Head Baseball Coach, Rodney Hennon

Kaiser graduated from Statesboro High School in 2021, playing baseball there under Coach Chris Bishop. He was a member of First Team All-Region from 2018-2020 and was 2021 Region 2-6A Offensive Player of the Year. Kaiser also played football for Statesboro, earning First Team All-Region in 2020 and 2021. In addition, he was an Academic Honor Roll recipient all four years of high school, the 2019-2020 Student of the Year and an Honor Graduate.

For more information on the Simmons Strong Foundation, please visit https://www.simmonsstrong.org/.