You won’t find many college football players stronger than John Simon, and he hasn’t even graduated from high school yet. The Buckeyes’ latest addition on the defensive line hopes to muscle his way into success at Ohio State.
He’s the strongest player in Ohio State’s bulky 2009 recruiting class.
However, defensive tackle John Simon from Youngstown Mooney wants to be known for what he does on the football field, not the weight room.
“Yeah, I’m more concerned about how I play than how I’m lifting,” Simon said. “I mean, I lift to improve myself as a football player, so it’s very important. But what happens on the field is what is really important.”
Simon (6-3, 285, 4.7) was one of the standouts on the gridiron at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Simon has a very impressive week of practice and was one of the standouts in the game.
“I thought I played well,” Simon said. “It was a great opportunity to go down there and go up against some of the best competition in the country. It was a lot of fun. I know I still got things to work on and I’m working on them now. Things like making more plays in the backfield. So, hopefully I’ll be ready when I come to Ohio State.”
OK, but we couldn’t interview Simon without asking about his weight room exploits. Just how strong is he in the bench press? Well, he might be the strongest OSU recruit in recent memory.
“Last January my max on the bench was 445 pounds,” Simon said. “Right now I’m just lifting for speed and endurance and things of that sort. As far as the most reps, I’ve done 225 pounds for 48 reps.”
Simon is ranked as the nation’s No. 16 defensive tackle prospect by ESPN’s Scouts Inc. As a senior in 2007, he had 148 tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 13 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks. He helped Mooney go 9-3 and reach the Division IV regional finals. Simon was a Division IV first-team All-Ohio pick as well as a co-state defensive player of the year, according to The Associated Press. He was also a first-team pick on the ONN/All-Ohio team.
When asked to give a scouting report on himself as a player, Simon hesitated for a moment.
“That’s a tough question,” he said. “I’d have to say a whole lot of hustle all the time is my best asset. Just playing to the whistle and trying to be nasty and get after people. I feel like I’m pretty tough to move out of there.”
In terms of his expectations for his OSU career, Simon says he tries not to look too far into the future.
“I haven’t really thought that far ahead – I haven’t even joined the team yet,” he said. “So, I’m just looking forward to coming in there and doing everything I can. I just want to help the team win any way I can and I’m just going to have to take it one day at a time.”
Ohio State has quality depth returning at defensive tackle in 2009 with Todd Denlinger, Cameron Heyward (who also plays DE), Dexter Larimore and Doug Worthington. Also, Garrett Goebel is expected to join the rotation after redshirting last season. Therefore, conventional wisdom indicates that Simon might redshirt his first season, but he plans to come in ready to play.
“I’d like to play – I think everyone wants to,” Simon said. “But I’ll do whatever is best. I know they redshirt a lot of their defensive tackles, but if they need me to play and think I’m ready, that would be great.”
Simon didn’t play any sports in high school other than football. The rest of his senior year will be spent trying to improve himself as a football player.
“I’ll just be training the rest of my senior year,” he said. “I’m really getting after it because I’m really looking forward to Ohio State and I want to be ready.”
Simon will not play in the Big 33 or North-South all-star games this summer.
“No sir,” he said. “We looked it over and that’s the week my graduation party is and I have a lot of friends and family coming into town that week.”
Ohio State is expected to sign 26 prospects on Wednesday – the largest class of the Jim Tressel era – and Simon couldn’t ask for a better group of future teammates.
“I’m real close to everyone,” Simon said. “We’ve kept in touch over time and we’re already pretty much great friends coming in. So, I think it’s a great class talent-wise, but we also have that chemistry already and I think we’re going to be good.”
As for his signing day plans, Simon is going to have a small press conference at his school along with his former Mooney teammates that are also signing letters of intent.
“We’re going to have a press conference in the morning at the school and my parents are going to be there and it’s going to be a memorable day for us,” Simon said.
The John Simon File
* Height/weight: 6-3, 285
* 40-yard time: 4.7
* Vital statistics: As a senior, he tallied 148 tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 13 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks. He helped Mooney go 9-3 and reach the Division IV regional finals. Simon was a Division IV first-team All-Ohio pick as well as a co-state defensive player of the year, according to The Associated Press. He was also a first-team pick on the ONN/All-Ohio team.
* Rankings: He is rated as the No. 4 overall senior prospect in Ohio, according to Ohio High magazine. Also rated as the No. 5 overall prospect in the state, according to The Ohio Football Recruiting News. Simon is rated as the nation’s 16th-best defensive tackle. SuperPrep considers Simon as an All-American, ranking him as 19th-best prospect in the Midwest and the nation’s No. 29 defensive lineman. Simon was also listed in the Detroit Free Press Best of the Midwest team, ranking at No. 11 in the Midwest.
* College choices: Verbaled to Ohio State on Dec. 26, 2007, picking the Buckeyes over Notre Dame, Nebraska, Iowa, Boston College and Stanford.
* Academics: Holds a 3.7 GPA and scored a 23 on the ACT.
* Why he picked OSU: “Just the atmosphere when you go there and the coaching staff really welcomed me. You can tell they are just a family at Ohio State and I wanted to be a part of that.”
* How he figures to fit in at OSU: “I’m hoping to come in and do everything I can to help the team and hopefully it all turns out well.”
* When is he enrolling? June.
* Projected uniform number at OSU: 54.
* Hobbies: “I read a lot about military history and things like that.”