Oct. 6, 2012
By: Ashley Alberton, Athletics Communications
When the alarm clock sounds at 4:30 a.m., John Simon is ready to begin his day.
After a quick breakfast in his apartment, the Ohio State team captain is off to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center where his early morning is split between studying game film and weight training. When 9 a.m. rolls around, it is time to attend class and switch roles to the academic portion of his student-athlete title.
Following class, Simon returns to the football training facility to continue team and individual preparation for the upcoming game. Although most nights he doesn’t return to his apartment until after dark, it is hard to glean any complaints from the senior defensive lineman. In fact, he has developed an appreciation for even the most tedious tasks.
“I think I’ve matured a lot during my time at Ohio State,” Simon said. “I’ve found the importance of enjoying every moment. I’ve learned to appreciate everything I’ve been blessed with. The first three years flew by so fast. I took those three years for granted. Right now I’m enjoying everything.”
The perseverance Simon exhibits on a daily basis has sparked the attention of his teammates, who particularly admire the Youngstown, Ohio, native’s commitment to the Ohio State program.
“It’s emotional when you have a guy like John, who gives absolutely everything to this team,” Etienne Sabino, a fellow team captain, said. “He puts the team in front of himself when maybe sometimes he should put himself in front of the team. It makes you look back at yourself. ‘Are you giving everything you have for this team? Does it mean that much to you?’”
Not surprisingly, Simon credits others for instilling in him the drive and dedication to be successful on the collegiate level. In particular, he credits the strong foundation he received playing high school football in the state of Ohio.
A two-time all-state honoree at Cardinal Mooney High School, Simon was a big part of leading the Division IV high school powerhouse to three state title games.
“It was a lot of fun playing at Mooney because you played some of the best high school football teams in the state,” Simon said.
Preparing for tough opponents alongside his high school teammates is also something Simon believes contributed to his current success as a Buckeye.
“Throughout the week at practice you learn how to prepare for games, which has helped me the most since I’ve arrived to college,” Simon said. “There were guys on the team I could learn from and they taught me a lot. Some of them are playing on Saturdays now and there are even some playing on Sundays and that’s pretty cool.”
The transition from playing under the lights in high school to taking the field on Saturdays is something Simon recalls to help relate to the younger Buckeyes.
“I remember coming in as a freshman very wide-eyed with no idea what was going on,” Simon said. “You need to find a way to help keep them calm. They’re not used to coming into a stadium with 100,000 of the best fans in the country, it’s a big step.”
For Simon, playing each game in the “Horseshoe” is an honor.
Prior to the matchup against California on Sept. 15 Simon was experiencing discomfort in his shoulder. The pain was enough for coaches to consider not playing the undeniable heart of the Buckeyes on that Saturday afternoon.
Instead of watching from the sidelines as advised, Simon insisted on being on the field with his teammates. He helped lead Ohio State to a 35-28 home win and inspired the Ohio State players and staff with his emotional postgame speech.
“I put everything I had into that game,” Simon said. “I was just emotionally drained. I spoke from the heart and what came out is what came out. Most of all I told them I appreciated playing with them because I wasn’t sure I would be able to. It just meant the world to be able to play with them.
“As a senior class, we want to win as many games as possible. We want to set the foundation for the new coaching staff and era of Ohio State football. I’m someone who is going to do whatever it takes for this team.”
The week following the win over California, Simon went back to his routine of preparing for the Buckeyes’ next battle. The alarm once again went off at 4:30 a.m. and he once again didn’t leave the training facility until after dark.
Most importantly, however, he continued to inspire his teammates and coaches to give a little more. Setting the foundation for the future of Ohio State football.