The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Mike Mastovich

June 8, 2014

MIKE MASTOVICH| Simon aiming for second life

JOHNSTOWN — Geroy Simon never allowed obstacles or naysayers’ opinions to deter him throughout a career as the most prolific receiver in the history of the Canadian Football League.

So, when Geroy says the primary goal in his post-playing career is to become a general manager, it probably isn’t wise to bet against the Greater Johnstown High School graduate.

Simon, 38, announced his retirement Wednesday after 15 CFL seasons and three Grey Cup championships. The Johnstown native finished with league records in receiving yards (16,352) and receptions (1,029).

The Saskatchewan Roughriders immediately named him to a front office post.

Last year, Simon helped the Roughriders win the Grey Cup title in his only season with the team following a trade with the British Columbia Lions.

“The Riders really stepped up to the plate,” Simon said during a telephone interview from Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday. “They gave me an opportunity to move into the front office and help the organization. My position entails my being an advance scout, speaking on behalf of the organization and doing other work.

“This gives me an opportunity to be groomed as a GM in the CFL,” he added. “I never made any bones about it. I want to eventually be a general manager or president of an organization. This gives me an opportunity to start that process.”

Determined pursuit

Simon’s lengthy and distinguished football resume indicates that once he gets an opportunity, he’ll make the most of it.

At 6-foot, 198-pounds, Simon went undrafted despite an outstanding career at the University of Maryland. He tried to catch on with a number of NFL teams, including the Steelers, Bengals, Eagles and Chiefs. Simon was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad for two seasons but never got the call to the regular roster.

Instead of giving up on a professional career, Simon headed North, playing two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before finally finding his niche with the British Columbia Lions.

In BC, Simon became a fan favorite while being a key cog in the Lions’ two Grey Cup championships. Simon was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2006, when he had 105 catches for 1,856 yards and 15 touchdowns on a championship squad.

Simon had nine consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

The eye-popping numbers were great, but to Simon, those three Grey Cup rings meant the most. The Grey Cup is the CFL equivalent to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Changing priorities

As he matured as a player, the team became his priority.

Early in his CFL career, Simon hoped to make a big enough impression to earn another NFL shot. Now, he realizes the NFL slight enabled him to find a football home.

“Growing up in Johnstown my ultimate goal was to play in the NFL. That’s the only thing I knew,” Simon said. “A lot of kids have dreams and aspirations. Then when they get to that point, they see other things and other opportunities. I just realized the NFL wasn’t for me as far as a player.

“The Canadian Football League gave me a great opportunity to not only play but to be a star and help the league take off,” he continued. “I recognized that and I appreciated that. I felt I owed it to the CFL to not leave the game, to stick with it and help the league grow.

“I had a part in that with a lot of other great players.”

Simon is so popular North of the border his likeness was placed on a Canada Post stamp in 2012 to commemorate the CFL’s 100th anniversary season.

Huddle Up

Canada has given plenty to Simon, and he’s determined to give back away from the field.

The Geroy Simon Huddle Up Foundation just finished its first year of providing winter coats to children whose families cannot afford the winter gear.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to help a bunch of kids in Saskatchewan and moving foward, throughout Canada,” Simon said.

How successful was the initial coat drive?

“Our goal last year was 500 coats and we ended up getting 12,000 coats,” Simon said.

Simon also has taken initial steps for a project in the Johnstown region. While Simon couldn’t divulge details yet, he said he’s spoken to a local attorney and hopes to share his idea with local business leaders.

“I really love Johnstown and I appreciate the support that I received over the years,” Simon said. “Although I live in Vancouver, which is probably 3,000 miles away, I’ve never forgotten Johnstown and the lessons I learned there growing up. It really prepared me for my adult life. I love the place where I’m from. I cherish it.

“I want to be a great example for people in Johnstown, especially the young generation growing up. Someone who is doing things in the right way, a positive way.”

Johnstown vision

Simon envisions a plan to encourage young people to make good choices. He’s regularly followed the news here, both good and bad.

“We can put some life back in the city,” Simon said. “I still read The Tribune every day on my iPhone. I have a project I’ve talked about and probably will start working on in the he next six months. It will inject some life in the city.

“We can stop some of the bad things that are happening and shed some light on some of the positive things going on in Johnstown,” he said. “It’s just a thought and a theory right now. Until I get some input from people who have had success in Johnstown and corporations in Johnstown, I don’t want to spoil it. I have a lot of things going on but this is just as important to me. A lot of positive things are going on but it gets overshadowed by some of the negative things that are happening.”

Simon might have retired as a player. But, it appears, he will not slow down any time soon.

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