There are very few people who have watched area native John Simon play football and not think that was what he was born to do.
Ever since he stepped onto the field at Cardinal Mooney nearly a decade ago Simon seemed destined for gridiron greatness. Well, Simon's destiny is about to be reached in Baltimore.
On April 27, the former Mooney and Ohio State star was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the annual NFL selection meeting. It may have taken a while before Simon was chosen with the 129th pick, but it was certainly worth the wait. Now Simon can hardly wait to prove what kind of pro player he can be.
"I am looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to start practicing," Simon said in a conference call on Saturday. "Whatever my role is I'm going to embrace it and do everything I can to be the best possible player for the Baltimore Ravens."
Not that the Ravens are short on sensational players. Baltimore won the Super Bowl this past February and has the pieces in place to make another run this winter. Great teams never seem to stop adding parts, however, and that's why the gritty Mooney product fits in well with these champs.
"(The Ravens) are just a tough, hard-nosed team and I feel that's how I play the game," Simon continued during the conference call. "I am really excited to be part of that organization."
Certainly, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees are equally excited to have Simon on their squad. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 260-pound defensive lineman will probably fit in perfectly as an outside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4 defensive scheme. He was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year a year ago thanks to picking up 44 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. Simon also had a career high nine sacks last season. All of those numbers came in just 11 games, as Simon had to sit out the annual showdown with arch rival Michigan due to an injury. He proved that the bum knee that kept him sidelined in that season finale was not a concern when he posted a 4.6 time in a postseason 40-yard dash and was clocked at an impressive 4.4 and 7.10 in the all important short shuttle and three-cone drills.
Of course, anyone associated with this area is known for having a heart the size of the Mahoning Valley itself and Simon is no exception. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer only had the luxury of coaching Simon one season in Columbus, but the coach raved about his work ethic and leadership. He'll need to utilize all of those intangibles if he is to make an impression on a collection of seasoned champion players. Like all Mooney men, Simon welcomes any and all challenges.
"That's what you go to the National Football League for - to compete against the best," admitted Simon.
Not that Simon is a stranger to successful seasons. He was a member of the Buckeyes' undefeated campaign in 2012, played in three state title games at Mooney and was the Northeast Ohio Player of the Year after his senior high school season. More importantly, the son of John and Renee Simon of Cornersburg, has shown his smarts too, when he made the National Honor Society at Mooney.
The last Mooney player to be drafted into the NFL was Vince Marrow who was selected in the 11th round by the Buffalo Bills in 1992. Kyle McCarthy and Ishmaai'ly Kitchen are former Cardinals who are currently on the Chiefs and Browns respectively. That duo were both undrafted free agents.