Simon Leading Youngsters

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Last updated: 06/05/2012 8:44 PM

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Football
Simon’s Work Ethic Rubbing Off on Young Defenders

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As one of the most self-motivated people around, John Simon was used to doing things his own way.

Urban Meyer had another idea.

John Simon
Photo by Jim Davidson
John Simon

“It's called harnessing the power of the elite,” Meyer said during his appearance at the Ohio State Football Clinic back in April. 

“John Simon can go in there every day and lift with (strength coach) Mickey Marotti, and that serves no purpose. That's what he used to do here; come in every day and lift with the strength coach.”

That is not the reason Meyer paid big money to bring Marotti to Columbus from Gainesville, where he had served as Meyer’s right-hand man during their six-year run together with the Florida Gators.

“Donald Duck could be the strength coach if John Simon were the only guy in the weight room,” Meyer added.

For a long time, he was the only guy in the weight room.

At least at 6 a.m.

Simon would arrive early — before most of his teammates were even up — get a long workout in, and then come back later to work out with the rest of his teammates. It was bizarre, said teammate Johnathan Hankins.

“He’s not normal,” Hankins said with a huge smile.

“He started getting up at 5 a.m. for a while to go in and work out.”

Then Meyer put a stop to that. He changed the locks on the weight room, put bars on the doors to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center or hid Kryptonite in Simon’s workout bag.

Whatever it was he had to do in order to keep Simon from showing up that early; at least until he started bringing some of his teammates with him.

“Now we're getting somewhere,” Meyer said.

“Now Ohio State is getting better, and that's what's going on.”

Rather than showing up alone, Simon has been accompanied every morning by second-year linebackers Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant, a pair of potential starters for the Buckeyes this fall.

“(They) have been coming almost every day at 6 a.m. with me, even on weekends — Saturdays and Sundays,” Simon said.

“So they're doing a great job for us and I look forward to seeing what they're gonna do in the season.”

Simon, a senior out of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, was already a physical freak when Meyer became Ohio State’s head football coach back in November. He was going to be one of the better players on the OSU defense this coming season, regardless of who was coaching the team.

“I'm talking about the self-discipline, self-respect, work ethic that most of us can only dream of,” Meyer said.

The kind even Donald Duck can work with.

Curtis Grant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Curtis Grant

Now Meyer is starting to see that same work ethic and self-discipline from guys like Shazier, and even Grant, who played very little as a freshman for former interim head coach Luke Fickell last season.
 
“He's constantly in there working really hard. You can't get him out of here,” senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said of Grant, who was one of the most highly-rated linebacker recruits in the country last year.

“He's always in here. Curtis has a great drive and a great ‘want-to’ and an unbelievable work ethic. It's almost night and day with how much he has improved from when he first got here to now.”

A lot of that is Grant’s inner drive to work his way onto the field after a disappointing rookie year in Columbus. The other part is simply taking a page out of Simon’s “How-To” guide on work ethic and self-determination.

“I try to bring as many people with me as I can,” said Simon, who weighs 265 and reportedly ran a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash this offseason.  

“We've had a pretty good following. Guys are coming in on weekends, or a little extra here. We haven't had that as much in the past, and I think it's really showing in how we were playing football.”

That was only spring ball. With John Simon leading the way, this team should be trending upward in the fall.

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