Legend Simon’s stay continues past playing
Hall of Famer never expected to be in Canada quite so long
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
Geroy Simon was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Thursday in Hamilton.