When you stop and think about it, I find it almost surreal that as Ohio State fans we were watching a tortured Buckeye team try and claw their way back into a game against the Miami Hurricanes, one year ago, almost to the day.
Really, it had nothing to do with football.
I hate the term, but it was a ‘statement game’ of sorts for the program to prove to the football world that Buckeye Nation could overcome such adversity off the field. Having beat the ‘Canes the previous year, the only redemption this time around was about character and will. I do not mean that to sound as hokey as it may come across, but it truly was a defining time for the program: the talent was present, but underdeveloped and unprepared making the spotlight that much brighter for the young players. Not only did they have to uphold the name of such a storied university on the field, but they had to do so on a national stage while so many were hoping for them to fail.
A year later, well, not a ton has changed to be honest. The rest of the football world still hates the Buckeyes, there are still a lot of young, undeveloped players and the team is still in a transition phase with Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. Urban has received a lot of praise since accepting the head coaching job at Ohio State. A lot is an understatement, actually, but it not only comes with good reason, but because he is an Ohio native. As any city should, we love a good hometown success story. And boy do we have one in number 54, John Simon.
And you thought I was going to gush over Urban. Come on.
From good old Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, John Simon immediately got attention when he bench pressed 225-pounds, 31 times. At 16 years old. In comparison, Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz was able to do that only 23 times at the NFL Combine and he is 23 years of age. Not only is he ridiculously strong, he can run a 4.8-second 40-yard dash as well. To say he is a freak of nature is not enough of a compliment.
Simon is now in his senior season at Ohio State and was one of the first to turn Urban Meyer’s head on the field. Meyer has been quoted as calling him “Tebowish” but because I prefer my keyboard to be a vomit-free zone, I will leave it at that and let you read the Cleveland.com post if you so choose.
“They’re different. God made them completely different. They’re freaks. They’re bizarre. I’m talking about the self-discipline, self-respect, work ethic that most of us can only dream of,” Meyer said during his presentation. “One guy I’ll point out to you is No. 54, John Simon. He’s a freak. I’ve not been around a guy like that, other than my quarterback — that left-handed kid at Florida, Tebow.
At both the college and professional level, these players do not survive on just pure ability or talent. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is nearly impossible to do so. To be successful, truly successful at the higher level, you need a hunger and desire which is tough enough to demonstrate, but absolutely impossible to teach.
“It’s called harnessing the power of the elite,” Meyer said.
Along with the help of coaches through his short career, as well as himself, Simon has clearly been able to harness that ability and use his innate desire to become the most successful player he possibly can. He expects the same from his teammates but does not force it upon them. Up to the beginning of the season, Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant have been joining Simon on his early morning workout routines which start at 6 a.m everyday. Including weekends. To me, that kind of dedication really speaks to a persons character. It does not say everything there is about a person, but it sure gives quite a snapshot.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes had their share of struggles throughout the entire game. Whether they thought it was a game of two-hand touch or they were just not there mentally, it led to a tearful speech from John Simon in the locker-room following the hard fought win. While the details of what he said may never be known, Urban had this to say about it:
“Boy, he just lost it in the locker room as far as just sharing, opening up his soul for this team,” Meyer said of Simon. “I’ve done this a long time, man, and he’s as good … John Simon, that’s a guy. If we have another child I want to name him, what is it, Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that. I can’t wait for that headline.”
He continued, “But that’s how much I love that guy. I’m not ashamed to say I love him. Love that guy, man. He makes all of us look in the mirror and say: Are we doing enough for our team? That guy, what he just did in there, not to give you too much of what went on in there, but am I doing enough? When I say I, as our coaching staff, are we doing enough? Are we doing as much as he’s doing? No. We’ve gotta do more. Gotta do more.”
John Simon made a highly decorated coach in Urban Meyer question his own efforts with his staff. Regardless of what was actually said in there, the obvious point that continues to be driven home is that this team needs a heart, soul and identity as talents develop. John Simon is exactly that.
It was not known until after the game that Simon was a game-time decision because of a shoulder injury he had. It was also quickly learned that injury was much, much more serious than what had previously had been disclosed.
There were 79 defensive snaps on Saturday. Simon played every one.
Photo courtesy of the-Ozone.net