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

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - DAN RALPH

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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