He comes from a broken family, in more ways than one.
When the football star was just 6 or 7 years old, his mother and step-father were arrested – he, for child abuse; she, for failing to report it.
"Our feet were tied to our bunk beds and our hands were tied to a door knob, so that were lying down parallel to the ground," Sims recounted. "He just whooped us non stop. He took a break and came back. He used and extension cord and his fist. That went on for almost a week and a half."
After the beating, and on the first day of school, Herschel's brother was unable to sit down at school. Teachers took notice, and that's what started the process of the arrests and convictions.
Sims's mother, who was out of prison on parole, was sent back.
Since being released in this past August, Herschel said he has spoken to his mom every day, and wants to visit his step-dad in prison soon.
"I don't hold anything against her," he said. "She's always going to be my mom. And to be honest, I really don't have any hate toward my step-dad. I actually want to meet him and confront him and ask him why."
Never having met his biological father, and with many of his aunts and uncles incarcerated, Sims, his siblings, and many of his cousins ended up living with the one aunt and uncle who could be counted on.
"I've had a job since seventh grade," he said. "My aunt had so many kids in the house that they were not able to give us a lot of stuff, so everything I had, I had to work for. I had to grow up sooner than I needed to and help out with my little brother and sister."
Sims knows his success in the classroom is just as important as his success on the field in order to go to college and be able to give his future children the things he grew up without.
"No pass, no play. That's what Coach Warren tells us all the time."
Now on the brink of graduating high school and entering college, Herschel has an entire city behind him. And, on Nov. 22, he will have a national audience behind him as MTV's World of Jenks will profile Herschel and his struggles in the series' season finale.
Just as he's counted on his instinct to find the end zone on the field, he's relying on intuition to change direction, break through barriers, and come out ahead.
Still a teen, but with an old soul, Sims has turned a tragic childhood few of us could fight back from – a life and legacy that inspire others.