Le­gend Si­mon’s stay con­tin­ues past play­ing

Hall of Famer never ex­pected to be in Canada quite so long

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When Geroy Si­mon first came to Canada, he wasn’t ex­pect­ing to stay long.

Af­ter be­ing re­leased by the NFL’S Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, Si­mon joined the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 fig­ur­ing Canada was a means to­wards kick-start­ing his pro ca­reer south of the bor­der.

But Si­mon never left. He has a per­ma­nent res­i­dence in his adopted home­land and is now one of the head­lin­ers of the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.

“I thought I’d be here for a year or maybe two, then go back to the NFL,’’ Si­mon said. “But I’d al­ways played in a pass­ing of­fence grow­ing up and when I got to the CFL it just felt very com­fort­able for me play­ing in this type of game.

“Once I made the de­ci­sion I was done with the NFL and was stay­ing here, my ca­reer just took off. This (Hall of Fame in­duc­tion) is very spe­cial, it says you were one of the best to ever play in this coun­try and for some­one who didn’t grow up in Canada and thought I’d be here for a year or two, it means a lot to me.”

Join­ing him in the player cat­e­gory were run­ning back Kelvin An­der­son, quar­ter­back An­thony Calvillo and line­backer Mike O’shea. For­mer Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers pres­i­dent Stan Schwartz and long­time Saskatchewan Huskies coach Brian Towriss enter as builders.

The for­mal in­duc­tion cer­e­mony was set for Thurs­day night in Hamil­ton.

Si­mon learned of his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion in March. The fol­low­ing month Si­mon’s wife, the mother of the cou­ple’s two teenaged chil­dren, died un­ex­pect­edly.

“I’m do­ing OK,’’ Si­mon said. “Ob­vi­ously ev­ery day is tough but each and ev­ery day we put one foot in front of the other and just ask God to give us the strength to keep mov­ing for­ward and He’s done that for us.’’

Si­mon, 42, played 15 CFL sea­sons, in­clud­ing 12 with the B.C. Lions (200112). The six-foot 198-pound na­tive of John­stown, Pa., re­tired on top in 2013 af­ter help­ing the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers win the Grey Cup on home soil.

It was the third CFL ti­tle of Si­mon’s il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. The six-time CFL all-star and ’06 league MVP re­tired shortly af­ter­wards, leav­ing as the most pro­lific re­ceiver in league his­tory with 1,029 catches for 16,352 yards and 103 touch­downs.

This sea­son, Mon­treal slot­back Nik Lewis (1,042 catches and count­ing) sur­passed Si­mon’s re­cep­tions mark. But Si­mon’s yardage record fig­ures will stand for some time as Lewis (13,703) is the clos­est ac­tive player.

Upon re­tire­ment, Si­mon re­turned to the Lions as the team’s Cana­dian scout­ing di­rec­tor per­son­nel as­sis­tant. The move was some­what sur­pris­ing be­cause Si­mon ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand the of­ten cruel na­ture of the game when B.C. dealt him to Saskatchewan prior to the 2013 sea­son af­ter the two sides couldn’t agree on his fu­ture role with the team.

“Any busi­ness is tough so you may as well be in some­thing you love and feel com­fort­able with,’’ Si­mon said. “I spent my whole life work­ing to­wards some­thing in this game as a player.

“On the flip­side I now have an op­por­tu­nity to do that as an ex­ec­u­tive. Be­ing in the front of­fice and try­ing to build a win­ner is an­other chal­lenge I look for­ward to.’’

I thought I’d be here (Canada) for a year or two. This means a lot to me. Geroy si­mon

DAR­RYL Dyck/the Cana­dian Press FILE

Geroy Si­mon was in­ducted into the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame on Thurs­day in Hamil­ton.

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