The Senior

By Kyle Rowland on November 19, 2012 at 10:00a

Even after one of the top defensive performances in school history, John Simon doesn’t like to talk about himself.

Simon is always offering a helping hand.

The questions came as soon as he walked into the interview room after Ohio State’s thrilling 21-14 overtime win at Wisconsin. How does it feel to own the school record for sacks in one game? Was this the best feat of your career?

Instead, the consummate teammate went into praise mode – for the 10 players around him.

“It was great coverage,” said Simon, whose four sacks tied him with Jason Simmons, Bobby Carpenter and Vernon Gholston. “That quarterback was holding the ball for an awfully long time. One time he ran into me. Another time, we ran a great stunt where Nathan Williams ran him into me.”

But Simon’s teammates were quick to recognize his sacks that added up to 36 lost yards for the Badgers.

“He’s unbelievable,” linebacker and fellow captain Zach Boren said. “He was flying around. He’s so quick off the edge, and it's so hard for those 330-pound offensive tackles. He knows what his game is and he strives at it.”

It wasn’t just sacks where Simon made an impact, though. In the first quarter, he batted down a pass from Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips that could have gone for a first down, but the Badgers were forced to punt. On the ensuing special teams play, Corey Brown went 68 yards untouched to give Ohio State the early momentum and a 7-0 lead.

On the Badgers’ first play from scrimmage on the following possession, Simon sacked Phillips, and in doing so, sent a message to tackle Rob Havenstein that it was going to be a long day. And it was for nearly two quarters. But Havenstein suffered a game-ending knee injury, so Simon took to his replacement and the occasional double team.

When Wisconsin took over on the short side of the 50 on the final possession of regulation, Simon put an end to the good field position on the first snap. He beat his man easily, getting to Phillips and taking him down for an 11-yard loss.

The Badgers still managed to score, but on 4th-and-6 in overtime, Simon harassed Phillips for what seemed like the 83rd time – the number of plays Wisconsin ran. The hurried throw was knocked away by safety Christian Bryant and Ohio State was on its way home with win No. 11 secured.

“It means a lot that we got the win,” Simon said.

Meyer famously called Simon "Tebowish."

A victory came tougher than the Buckeyes might have imagined after they took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. At that point, Phillips, a fifth-year senior starting his second career game, had missed several open receivers. Ohio State dared him to beat them as running back Montee Ball racked up 191 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries. 

Ohio State created a turnover when they needed it most, causing Ball to fumble at the one-yard line late in the fourth quarter. But Wisconsin got the ball back and forced overtime with a touchdown in the final 10 seconds.

“We really wanted to stop that run game,” Simon said. “I really thought we did a good job, except for that one series where they slammed it down our throat.”

Simon was referencing the same series that ended with Ball’s fumble, which would have given him the NCAA career touchdown record. Ball carried the ball seven times for 42 yards on the drive.

Phillips came back on the next series, though, and orchestrated a 41-yard game-tying series. Then the Silver Bullets buckled down in overtime, limiting the Badgers to four yards and a low-percentage pass on the decisive 4th down.

“We just had to shore everything up for overtime,” Simon said. “We knew it was going to be another battle.”

The Buckeyes won that battle royale, and the overriding theme following the game was similar to that of the season: sending the seniors out in style.

“(Simon is) a senior, and he said we weren’t going to lose this game,” defensive line mate Johnathan Hankins said. “I backed him up on that and continued to fight as hard as I could.”

Ohio State has 21 seniors on the roster, eight of them starters, including senior captains – all on defense – Simon, Boren, Etienne Sabino and Garrett Goebel. Ten years ago when Ohio State won the national championship in Arizona, it was head coach Jim Tressel who mentioned the seniors first in his postgame remarks.

That group of 13 fourth- and fifth-year players had been through rough patches similar to their 2012 cousins. The Buckeyes lost six games in 1999, four in 2000 and five in 2001. They also lost to Michigan in two of those three seasons. But that wasn’t all.

Following an embarrassing loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day 2001, 13-year head coach John Cooper was dismissed. A bulk of that performance fell directly on a group of selfish and undisciplined seniors who grew disenchanted and disinterested.

Quarterbacks are always on notice with Simon nearby.

That environment changed when Tressel was hired and the same leadership traits in the locker room took hold after Urban Meyer took over. 

Players could have bailed on an Ohio State program that was barred from the postseason in 2012, but no senior left, largely because there was unfinished business.

“I stayed because it’s a team sport,” Simon said. “We (the seniors) would never consider leaving those guys. When I committed to being a Buckeye, I was a Buckeye through and through. I wanted to be here for four years.”

He might not have the most tackles on the team, but Simon clearly has the biggest impact. On the field, he is constantly chasing quarterbacks and running backs and generally making an impact in some way on nearly every play. In the locker room, Simon commands respect from his peers, even giving a tearful speech after he played with one arm in a heart-stopping game against California in September. And whether it’s during the season or not, Simon’s mentality and dedication to the team draws admirers numbering in the triple digits – the amount of players on the roster.

“I’m so proud of him,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said.

Simon is someone who wakes up well before sunrise and traverses to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. But it got to the point that Meyer and strength coach Mickey Marotti instituted the “Simon Rule.”

They loved Simon’s work ethic, but they also wanted to use it to the team’s advantage. So Simon was no longer permitted to enter the monstrous football facility alone – he had to bring along a teammate or two, preferably underclassmen.

The Simon mystique began rubbing off on the team and low and behold, the defense clamped down. Ohio State’s 2011 defensive unit was part of the equation in the Buckeyes’ seven losses, tied for the most in school history and a figure that hadn’t been equaled since 1897.

The Silver Bullets have spent portions of 2012 being a bend but don’t break defense. But they say defense wins championship and Ohio State has the Leaders Division all to itself.

“We knew how physical it would be,” Simon said. “The tougher team always wins this game.

“Great team effort.”

Now the final week, final practice, final game in Ohio Stadium, final game as a Buckeye and final chapter of Simon’s stellar four-year stay at Ohio State all collide at a crossroads on Saturday afternoon.

When he sits down and recalls his career years down the road, you’ll likely hear an awful lot about coaches and teammates from John Simon.


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bhsiba99's picture

Saving his best for last (2 games)!!

LouGroza's picture

John Simon = One awesome Buckeye!

toad1204's picture

Is it Saturday yet?

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

bassplayer7770's picture

I'm very happy for John Simon, and I hope he breaks his own record with 5+ sacks against TTUN.

buck-I.8's picture

13 is a school record, no?
After double checking, this is confirmed, Vrabel in 95'. And I believe Gholston had 13 his senior year as well.

nw_ohio_Buckeye's picture

...yeah, sounds to me like the critics and haters claiming this football season means absolutely nothing failed to query the ones most intimately involved...including Mr. Beast. Go Bucks!

"The minute I think I'm getting mellow, I'm retiring. Who ever heard of a mellow winner?" ~ Woody Hayes 

Poison nuts's picture

That story was awesome. When it comes to John Simon - the best is yet to come!

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Earle's picture

“I stayed because it’s a team sport,” Simon said. “We (the seniors) would never consider leaving those guys. When I committed to being a Buckeye, I was a Buckeye through and through. I wanted to be here for four years.”

Please be listening, Big Hank!
Oh, and how can you not love John Simon!

Snarkies gonna snark. 

gobucks5413's picture

John Simon is one of the many reasons why I am proud to be a Buckeye....for every Pryor, there is a Simon running around being an awesome person and an awesome Buckeye.
I'm so excited for Saturday, thank goodness I only have a 2 day work week. I don't think I could stand working for 5 days.
Go Bucks and happy Hate Monday

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I can think of no better way than to spend my Saturday sitting in the Shoe watching these great great seniors kick the shit out of michigan one last time!!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Maestro's picture

If I were to own a Buckeye jersey I would first pick #36 and next #54.  Not a jersey guy myself.

vacuuming sucks

WC Buckeye's picture

Well said, Maestro. They both play(ed) with that extra bit of intensity that is so rare.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

ElGato69's picture

Good picks for jersey numbers.  I bought my #36 my freshman year in '87-'88, which was the senior year of a certain #36 jersey wearer that year.  Spielman is my favorite Buckeye of all time, and I still wear that jersey to every football game I attend.  I've never really considered buying another one, though I have to say a #27 jersey was enticing back in the day at the end of my collegiate career.  But because of his work ethos and team-first mentality, I would definitely consider donning his number.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Anyone have any idea who Simon has been taking with him to those early morning workouts? Would be interesting to know who he has been taking under his wing...........

buckeye76BHop's picture

Noah Spence and Michael Thomas from what I've heard...interesting huh?

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 


Class Act through and through. He's going to have the same kind of NFL career that Mike Vrabel did. Would not be surprised at all to see him win a few Super Bowl rings to boot. Go out with a statement this Saturday John! Go Buckeyes!

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

flipbuckeye's picture

Sorry, I accidentally downvoted you... Fat fingers on an iPhone. 

Oyster's picture

Don't go back for seconds on Thursday, ok? ; )

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

MediBuck's picture

Don't worry--upvoted for you to make up for it!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

buckeye76BHop's picture

I hope this article as well as Simon's performance (as well as his unselfish comments) shuts some people who were talking shit about him not being a top player in the NFL (or the draft or whatever.  Noticed those comments on a Footbaw Thread).  He just destroyed NFL caliber linemen throughout the entire game against Wiscy.  Yes I'm calling some people out...sorry you're actual Buckeye fans, but you're the ones crying about one of the best Dlineman in OSU's history.  I hope they shut up's not about what you do or where you get drafted in the's what you do as a Buckeye that matters.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

BrewstersMillions's picture

I would like to step forward as possibly the loudest of the Simon-to-the-NFL detractors and respond to you in a few ways.
1) First and foremost, I have never had a problem with John Simon as a Buckeye. I've simply asked that his play live up to his expectation coming into this season. I have been very clear that at the start of the season he was the one guy on the defense OSU could ill afford to lose for a period of time. He played very well against Nebraska and Penn State and obviously kicked Wisconsin in the junk for an entire 4 quarters of football. I was constantly asking "show me a game he dominated this year from start the finish the way elite players do" and he did it Saturday. He played by far the best game he ever played as a Buckeye, at least as far as I can remember.
2) My stance on him at the next level does not change, despite what one game's performance says. He has played inconsistent all year long, and even a downright A Plus, super star type game like Saturday doesn't sway me that much-my question is, and will always be-where the heck was that all year.
3) what does being an 'actual Buckeye fan' have anything to do with anything? Fans can't be critical of their favorite team's senior leaders? This defense, the first half of the season under performed. John Simon doesn't get spared criticisms-rather as the spearhead of the defense he should have gotten the first portion of the blame. As he has played with more consistency as has the defense. Imagine where they'd be as a unit if he had been %100 and playing up to his collegiate ability. I'm perfectly content attributing some of his below average play to a shoulder injury he probably never told his coaches the extent of (if everything we hear about him is true). He was also vulnerable in a lot of situations this year and when OSU was getting gouged by big plays, a lot of times it was through his gap, at him, or where he should have been. He played great Saturday-he hasn't played great all season.
Sorry if this makes me a 'Fake Buckeye' but I refuse to get caught up in hooplah that isn't backed up by play. He obviously played above and beyond even his foolishly high expectations Saturday but he's had more games NOT like Saturday than games like Saturday this season. 

WC Buckeye's picture

I respect your opinion and in some ways share it - consistent game play counts for a lot, and everyone plays with injuries and other issues that can make that harder to achieve. What seems to be going unsaid here, though, is your praise for what Simon does as a leader. There are so many - on this board, on the team, and damned sure on the coaching staff - who are blown away by the devotion this kid has to both his university as well as its football team, and it seems like you aren't giving much credit for this. His leadership example doesn't immediately translate into X- and O-type advantages or his performance, but boy does it make a difference in the huddles when these kids' backs are up against the wall.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Eh, see leadership is a nice, fancy word thrown around but performance is the linchpin that holds a leader together. If the guy was a charismatic, outspoken, vocal guy but ended up on his back on most plays, no one would give a rats behind about how good of a leader he was. If John Simon didn't improve his play, his ability as a leader would be worthless. I'm making the connection that a leader in the locker room also needs to get it done on the field otherwise he's just a mouth piece. Simon wasn't getting it done on the field, neither were the other 10 guys out there with him-his leadership (though unquestioned) wasn't leading to the type of play we expected out of him and the defense as a whole.
Also-I'm not blaming only John Simon for bad defensive performances. Blown coverages aren't on him, neither are the missed tackles he didn't commit. But as its been pointed out several times-the guy is a great leader. When his unit under performs, leadership gets the first dose of heat and criticism. It cuts both ways when you are the unquestioned captain of the defense, and in reality the team as a whole.

nickma71's picture

I hope he sacks Dorfman.

Ekes42's picture

I still remember when his sister came over to my place down at OSU and told us that her brother was coming to OSU to play football.  I kinda just shrugged and thought that's cool.  It's crazy how good he has become.  Definitely one of my favorite Buckeyes of all time!!     

Louisville Buckeye's picture

John Simon went beast mode. Great game for him, he deserves it.

Doc's picture

Thanks John for being a class act and a damn fine Buckeye both on and off the field.
I'm hoping he rips detards dredds off and wears them like a wig.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

timdogdad's picture

each trip at 6am to the whac= a play getting past a lineman.   before the  game i bet every underclassmen will look at simon and say, we're winning for you.  he may have the highest respect credit rating of all time.
this season is now so much like 2002 it's eerie.   the new coach and new dedication.   cal game = cincy,  mich state=wisc, psu,   purdue=purdue,  wisc = illinois,   hopefully scum= win, just like 14-9 in 2002.  and a perfect regular season.    

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

That's Mr. Simon to you!

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Boxley's picture

You do realize Brewster, that Simon has been playing hurt most of the year? Even at less than 100%, he never quit and always contributed. At no time was he a weakness on the field in his position. He certainly chased every quarterback he faced all over the field in every game. i am pretty sure that was somewhat disruptive to their game plan.
I imagine if you spoke to the offensive linemen that faced him they would look at you rather quizzically as to WTH are you talking about. He is usually double teamed, that must be for some logical reason, don't you think? I cannot imagine it was because they just happened to have more offensive players then they needed so they just put two on him?
That being stated, all of your, and my opinions really do not mean much., NFL Draft day will provide the only answer that counts.  

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

BrewstersMillions's picture

I've never faulted the guy for effort. He's played hurt and though he hasn't been a glaring weakness, per se (a point I actually disagree with in some instances) he wasn't the star we were told about either. That's my point. Other than Wisconsin, his play has been meh, punctuated with some wow moments. I'm aware he was hurt\is still hurt-but if you aren't making the impact that was expected of you, maybe taking a week off better suits the team as a whole? I don't know, its moot now as he does appear healthy.
As for the double teams, I think that's been a bit of a myth-I've been scouring the web for someone who has statistical analysis of double teams and have come up short so I'm going soley on hypothesis from what I've seen but Hank is drawing more of the two offensive linemen double teams. Simon is seeing guys chip and release, but if that neutralizes him at the point of attack, that will really affect him come April.

Squirrel Master's picture

I'm not going to start the argument again Brew but you are wrong on the double teams. He is double teamed quite often, coaches even have said they plan to double team him. He has been receiving double teams all year long. Hopefully Ross's analysis this week will show how many times he does get double teamed. I'm 100% certain is it more often than you think!
that is all.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

BrewstersMillions's picture

I'm not ruling out that what you are saying is true and that I am wrong. I've been watching for it and haven't seen it a ton but it really can be challenging to watch line play, given how the camera follows the ball and if the action goes away from a player you are watching, your eyes naturally wonder to the ball carrier.
Just out of curiosity, what coaches have said that? And where have they said that?

ARMYBUCK's picture

John Simon is one of my favorite buckeyes of all time and I still agree with Brewster on this one.

BrewstersMillions's picture

And I like the guy. I  mean, what's not to love about him? I really don't like that its presumed I don't like John Simon. He isn't one of my all time favorites but that's really because my man crush on Will smith and Darion Scott runs real deep.

JLP36's picture

Darion Scott ruled!


Larryp713's picture

When I think of great Buckeyes, like Troy Smith and Eddie George, I will always include John Simon and Zach Boren among those. Their leadership would slip the average fan's radar were it not the praise provided by Coach Meyer, who has no problem sharing when a player does not meet expectations. He has referred to Simon as family and Boren in praises that are not to be ignored. It hurts these Buckeyes will not get that final bowl, but they will always own a place in my heart. We fans are blessed by their commitment, and should never forget them.



ARMYBUCK's picture

Well said Larry.  I just think the expectations for John Simon were unrealistic.  Like I said before hes one of my favorites and his leadership is undeniable.  Hes a workout freak and his dedication to the program is admirable but at the end of the day hes still human.  The expectations of him before the season would suggest otherwise.  Now, are those expectations really his fault?  Nope. Its on most of us.

JLP36's picture

Impossible to imagine John Simon walking off the field after the GAME without a victory.  May he rip Denard's limbs off.


Buckeye_Mafia's picture

John Simon can do the backstroke up a waterfall...feet first.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

MediBuck's picture

John Simon once challenged his own reflection to a staring contest... and won.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes