The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 26, 2012

Johnstowners take football talents to top

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown’s football tradition was on display at the highest professional levels in both the United States and Canada during 2012.

Greater Johnstown High School graduates LaRod Stephens-Howling and Geroy Simon made their marks in the NFL and CFL, respectively. Another former Trojans standout, Antwuan Reed, finished a four-year career at Pitt and signed with the NFL Cleveland Browns, attending preseason training camp before being released.

Bishop McCort graduate Andrew Hawkins played his second NFL season with the Cincinnati Bengals after previously winning two CFL Grey Cups with the Montreal Alouettes.

Simon made history with the CFL’s British Columbia Lions.

The veteran slot back opened his 14th season in record-breaking fashion as his 56-yard reception from Lions quarterback Travis Lulay in the fourth quarter of a 33-16 victory over Winnipeg made him the league’s all-time career leader in receiving yards.

“That ball hung up in the air forever,” Simon said during an onfield radio interview moments after the milestone play. “If I had one more step on him I would have scored.”

Simon began the game only 67 yards shy of the career record. He finished the season with 15,787 receiving yards and 100 career receiving touchdowns.

But Simon’s big year wasn’t limited to onfield accolades. His likeness was featured on a Canada Post stamp as part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, which is the CFL’s equivalent to the Super Bowl.

“Not too many people get to be put on stamps,” Simon said back in September. “One of my teammates looked at it and said, ‘They put the Queen on a stamp. They put the president and Elvis on stamps. Then they put you on one.’ That put it in perspective for me.”

In his fourth NFL season, Stephens-Howling had 110 carries for 358 yards and four touchdowns through 14 weeks with the Arizona Cardinals.

He started five games as the featured running back due to the Cardinals’ injury situation. Stephens-Howling has been among the league’s top return men during his career and Cards fans affectionately refer to him as “The Hyphen.”

In a setback to the Atlanta Falcons, Stephens-Howling carried 22 times for 127 yards and a score. He had a career-long

52-yard run during that contest.

On the homefront, Stephens-Howling maintains his ties to the Johnstown High program. For the second straight year he was a sponsor of the meals served at the Trojan Family Christmas, a community event that provided as many as 500 gifts and 1,000 books to children.

Hawkins has emerged as a big-play threat at receiver for the Bengals, the team on which his older brother Artrell spent much of his NFL career.

In the second game of the season, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton scrambled away from Cleveland’s rush and threw a short pass to Hawkins, who turned it into a clinching

50-yard touchdown in a 34-27 win.

A week later his 59-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter keyed a 38-31 win over Washington. Hawkins’ 11-yard TD reception provided the winning points in a 31-13 victory over the New York Giants.

After a key AFC North Division game against the Steelers at Heinz Field, Hawkins had 48 receptions for 518 yards and four touchdowns.

Reed finished his career at Pitt as a two-year starter and four-year contributor. After going undrafted in April, Reed signed with the Browns as a cornerback. He played in the Browns preseason opener at Detroit for his first pro experience.

“It was cool, real exciting,” Reed said after the game. “It’s a very mental game. You need to know where you need to be.”

 

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