CFL Hall of Famer didn’t ex­pect to be in Canada for long

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - DAN RALPH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

“We’ll con­tinue to do that. I have a great fam­ily that’s been very sup­port­ive so we just keep mov­ing for­ward.”

Si­mon, 42, played 15 CFL sea­sons, in­clud­ing 12 with the B.C. Lions (2001-12). The six-foot 198pound 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 to 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 might as well be in some­thing you love and feel com­fort­able with,” Si­mon said. “I spent ba­si­cally 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.”

But Si­mon can’t deal with on-field prob­lems now like he did when he was a player. “When things didn’t go right (as a player) you could just give a lit­tle ex­tra ef­fort, play a lit­tle smarter and a lit­tle harder and turn your for­tunes around,” he said. “Now when things don’t go well, you have to rely on the play­ers to turn it around them­selves.

“Many times you want to go and talk to them, give them some feed­back on what’s go­ing on and what you think should hap­pen ... but all you can do is give them the tools they need to be suc­cess­ful, then it’s up to them to go do it.”

De­spite his many in­di­vid­ual ac­co­lades, the high­light of Si­mon’s ca­reer was win­ning his first Grey Cup with B.C in 2006. Si­mon was also named the CFL’s out­stand­ing player that year.

“I’ve been suc­cess­ful as an in­di­vid­ual but to win the Grey Cup was re­ally spe­cial be­cause it was my first foot­ball cham­pi­onship,” he said. “If you’re hav­ing suc­cess as a team you don’t worry about the in­di­vid­ual stuff.”

CAL­GARY SUN FILES

Geroy Si­mon cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a touch­down for the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers in the 2013 Grey Cup.

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