By Steve Svetovich
One part of the success of the Dunmore Bucks football team comes from Mixed Martial Arts training.
And that training comes through the volunteer efforts of former standout Scranton Central football player Jimmy “Kru” Simrell.
Simrell, 61, is the head Mixed Martial Arts instructor for the Dunmore Bucks football team.
He owns James Simrell Mixed Martial Arts, 717 Capouse Ave., Scranton. He has owned and operated the business for the past 25 years.
He also holds the titles as one of the head coaches for the Larry Holmes Boxing Teams Easton and Scranton.
Simrell is the Pennsylvania and Connecticut State Represenative for the United States Muay Thai Association and the Pennsylvania State Representative for the All-American SAMBO Federation.
His titles include Second-degree Black Belt in Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Master Marcio Stambowsky, Master of Combat Sambo under the late Master Alex Barakov and Black Kruang and Kru level in the art of Muay Thai from Maisonet’s Muay Thai Training.
Simrell trains former Heavy Weight Champion boxer Larry Holmes’ grandson Jeffrey Dorsey, 29, and Southpaw Light Heavy Weight professional boxer Shakeem Williams. He trains Dorsey with Cliff Ransom, a coach of Larry Holmes.
Simrell provided Mixed Martial Arts training for five months prior to the start of the season for the Dunmore football team.
“I try to help them develop confidence and coordination through Mixed Martial Arts training,” he said. “I help them with grappling, lateral arm movement and drills. I teach them arm drags to help get past an opponent. We cover a lot. They were at my gym every Saturday morning for five months. One of the Dunmore coaches, Mike Galdieri, still comes to my gym. I trained the coaches too.”
Dunmore head football coach Kevin McHale is appreciative of Simrell’s work with the Dunmore players.
“This past season,” McHale said, “many of our players did some Mixed Martial Arts training with Kru Simrell. It was an awesome experience for them. They learned so many skills that help in football. Along with that, Kru Simrell has been a great role model and influence on our student athletes and has continued to follow and support us during the season.”
The Dunmore football players thought so highly of Simrell that he was invited to Senior Night, although he was unable to attend due to an illness.
Simrell also provides Mixed Martial Arts training to younger local athletes. Finn Davis, Luca Falzett and Jack Davis, all three friends, all age 10, who play baseball and basketball as students at Saint Paul’s Elementary School, Green Ridge section of Scranton, train under Simrell. All three youngsters continue to develop additional skills through Simrell’s teaching of Mixed Martial Arts.
“He really knows his stuff and is an interesting guy,” said Donnie Davis, father of Finn Davis. “He’s a very smart guy. I know he helped the Dunmore football team a lot and trains Larry Holmes’ grandson. He’s a great guy to talk to.”
Simrell said he learned to street fight as a youngster. “I was never afraid of a fight,” he said. “I never picked on anybody, but I was always ready. I loved to fight and was not afraid of a fight.”
Simrell said he took up boxing while a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). “I boxed in Punxsutawney,” he said. “Then I branched out into Mixed Martial Arts.”
Simrell said late Pro Football legend Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones and late IUP athletic director Owen “Onions” Dougherty, a Dunmore native, recruited him to play football at IUP. I played a little football there, got into boxing and later Mixed Martial Arts.”
Simrell said he trained Larry Holmes’ grandson at his compound. “I was at Larry Holmes’ home,” he said. “Larry is a great guy. He has a great sense of humor and is real funny. Elmo Baldasari of Dunmore invited me to lunch with him one day. That’s how I met him.”
Simrell is married to the former Kathleen Van Wie, of Green Ridge. Children are Joshua, 41, Shamus, 14, Paddy, 13, and Posie, 9.
Simrell was the recipient of the Hookey Reap Award for the best defensive lineman in the Big 11 in 1979.