By ALAN HINTON • May 4, 2010

Two big guys, obvious athletes, got on the jet in Atlanta, heading for Jackson.
One was Marcus Tillman, a defensive end from Ole Miss, said the lady sitting next to me. She wore a New Orleans Saints shirt and said she was an Ole Miss fan.
But who was the other guy, one sitting across the aisle from us, one who had dozed off.
He wore a St. Louis Rams shirt, and was about 6-foot-5 and weighed about 250 pounds. And yet his body was so sleek it looked as if he could have crossed the finish line ahead of some of the horses I’d seen over the weekend at Churchill Downs.
The lady texted her nephew, an Ole Miss student, asking him what former Rebel is now with the St. Louis Rams. He didn’t know. There was only one more thing to do.
A bump in the plane, courtesy of a storm cloud over Alabama, awoke the sleeping giant.
“Without your jersey number, this lady and I don’t know your name,” I asked.
“Eugene Sims,” he said.
Small-town guy

Turns out he had no connection to Ole Miss. Or any other big-name school. Eugene Sims is from small-town Mize. He played at Jones County Junior College a few years ago and went from there to West Texas A&M, where he starred as a defensive end.
He was a speed guy, he said, able to get past a lot of offensive tackles and get to quarterbacks.
He certainly looked the part.
Sims said he watched the first round of the draft. During the next day, he went fishing instead of watching the latest NFL goings-on. He was watching the final day, and beginning to get a number of phone calls. Not from high school buddies. From NFL teams.
About the time he got a call from the Rams, he spotted his name on the crawler on ESPN. Eugene Sims had been drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Rams.
“I cried for about 10 minutes,” Sims said. “Tears of joy.”
Ironically, Sims said he liked basketball and baseball better than football in his younger days. He played football in the seventh and eighth grades, but not in the ninth.
An uncle talked him into going out again in the 10th. And he got good at it.
Scouting reports say he’s athletic. You can look at him and tell that. Solid. No fat. He used to play safety.
Challenge ahead

At any rate, Sims said he knows it’s up to him now. He knows that its not automatic that he makes the team. But he also knows that the Rams are looking for help at defensive end.
Tillman, the free agent from Ole Miss who also attended the Rams’ mini-camp, also is a defensive end, and he has at least 20 pounds on Sims. There are others wanting a job, too.
Meanwhile, what else went on in St. Louis, Eugene?
“I met Sam Bradford,” he said of the Oklahoma quarterback drafted first this year. “He can zip it. I thought he’d be a little arrogant, but he wasn’t.”
Neither was Sims. But his could be the best story. Small-town kid from Mize, Mississippi, playing in the NFL. We’ll know in about four months if it’s true.