Keith Sims hard work and determination made him one of the top offensive lineman in Iowa State history (1985-89) and paved the way for a long and illustrious career in the NFL.
A native of Millington, N.J., Sims was a highly recruited lineman at Wachtung Hills High School in 1984. Iowa State stood out on his list of courters because of its strong engineering program. He signed to play football with the Cyclones for head coach Jim Criner and was looking to sit out his first season while getting comfortable to the speed of big-time college football. Size was not a problem for Sims, who was a prototype of the behemoth monsters you see on the line today. Standing at 6-4 and over 300 pounds when he arrived on campus, the ISU coaching staff wanted to redshirt Sims before hitting the field.
Those plans changed, however, when an inconsistent offense forced the ISU coaches to play Sims, who helped the Cyclones defeat Kansas, 22-21 in his first game. From that day on, Sims started in every game at every interior lineman position for the Cyclones until graduation. He started all 11 games in 1986 and then sat out the 1987 season as a redshirt while recovering from a turf-toe injury. In 1988, Sims earned honorable mention all-Big Eight honors and was named ISU’s outstanding lineman, as Joe Henderson was a 1,000-yard rusher.
The 1989 season was a breakout year for Sims and the Cyclones. Head coach Jim Walden was in his third season with the Cyclones and Sims was considered one of the top senior lineman in the nation. Teaming alongside All-American lineman Gene Williams, Sims and company helped the Cyclones compile a 6-5 record, including a 4-3 mark vs. Big Eight competition, their first above-.500 record in league play since 1978. ISU’s offense was one of the best in school history, averaging 427.9 yards of total offense, the second-best total in ISU history. The Cyclones also broke the school record for touchdowns with 30. Sims toughness on the line helped All-American Blaise Bryant rush for 1,516 yards, the fourth-best rushing total nationally that season. ISU’s offensive prowess earned Sims first-team all-Big Eight honors, honorable mention All-America accolades and invitations to the East-West Shrine Bowl and Blue-Gray Classic.
Sims earned his degree in industrial education and technology in 1990 and then targeted the NFL as his next adventure. The pro scouts raved about Sims’ ability and intelligence and were penciling him in as one of the highest offensive lineman draft picks. He was selected in the second round, the 39th pick overall, by the Miami Dolphins in the 1990 NFL Draft, the third-highest draft choice for a Cyclone in school history.
Sims immediately fit right in with Dolphins, earning the starting nod at left guard in his rookie season in 1990. Sims started alongside first-round pick and left tackle Richmond Webb and became the first Dolphin rookie draft choices to start on opening day on offense in franchise history. Sims earned all-rookie honors in his first season in Miami, as the Dolphins went 12-4 and made the playoffs. Sims and Webb were the foundation of the Dolphin line for the next eight seasons, helping protect Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, who owns 24 NFL passing/quarterback records. Sims continued to improve, making three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1993, 1994 and 1995. He is one of four Cyclones to compete in the Pro Bowl. The Dolphins made five playoff appearances in Sims’ eight years as a starter with the Dolphins. Miami played in the AFC Championship game in 1992, falling to Buffalo for a chance to compete in the Super Bowl. Sims finished his outstanding NFL career by playing with the Washington Redskins his last three years before retiring in 2000.