Washington trying to fill big shoes

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Last updated: 04/11/2013 9:12 PM
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Football
Adolphus Washington Attempting to Replace the Irreplaceable
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes will have four new starters on the defensive line this season, but only one of them will be replacing the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Last season, John Simon won that award following a season when he led the Big Ten in sacks with 9.0, and finished sixth with 14.5 tackles for loss.

However, he was much more than just his stellar statistics. He was a captain, a leader, and an example for all to follow. He was as reliable as the tide, and just as coercive. He pushed and pulled teammates until they were all moving in unison.

When you asked a teammate about John Simon, before that player answered, he would generally shake his head for moment, almost in disbelief of what he has seen and the answer that he is about to give.

John Simon
Photo by Jim Davidson
John Simon

What do you want to know about? They can tell you everything. The talent? The effort? The will? The dedication? The pain? All have answers that border on the ridiculous.

This is a guy who played much of the season with injuries, but when asked about them, he would only say that he felt fine. Some would call it denial, but "refusal" is probably a better word.

He finally succumbed to a knee injury that he suffered during the Wisconsin game last year, which forced him to miss the Michigan game. Yet even in the moments leading up kickoff, he was still planning on playing, despite the inability to run or put the necessary weight on his knee.

That is John Simon. And as he walked out for Senior Day that day, his heart was much worse off than his knee.

Whenever he was asked about Simon last season, Urban Meyer could have caused cornea damage to those around him due to his glowing reviews on the senior defensive end. It wasn't that Simon couldn't do any wrong, it's that he didn't.

Meyer even said that if he has another son, he's going to have to name him "Urban John Simon Meyer Jr."

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolphus Washington

That is who Adolphus Washington is replacing. No big deal. Just the greatest teammate ever, right?

The good news is that he certainly looks the part. An inch taller than Simon and 30 pounds heavier, the cape and "S" on his chest will need to be a little larger in order to fit him. The boots that he will have to fill, however, are plenty big enough.

Perhaps the best thing going for Washington, aside from his immense talent, is that he got to see what John Simon was like, and he got to learn from him. He has seen the standard.

"He was in the same meeting room with John Simon, with John Hankins and (Garrett) Goebel and Nate Williams, and those are four great guys to learn from," Urban Meyer said. "The best teaching is someone leading by example and showing you how to do it."

Simon set the high-water mark for combining individual talent and a team-first mentality. Everything he did was for the team, and he used every bit of himself in giving what he had. Adolphus Washington got to see that, and now his coaches are asking the same of him.

"That was one of my biggest problems last year," Washington said.

"I didn’t go out and play hard every play. Everyone knows that’s what John Simon does. They let me know about it every day. If they see a play when I’m slacking off, they let me know about it."

Much is being asked of Washington, but only because his coaches believe he can handle it.

"Every time he grades out a nine or a 10 in his attitude and effort, and really everything that he does," Meyer said. "We grade every day. He's just a wonderful kid."

Washington compares himself favorably to Simon as a pass rusher, but he knows that he has to be more aggressive in his overall game. Meyer agrees.

"He doesn't play with a chip on his shoulder," he explained.

"He's not an angry player, and the position he plays, you have to play angry, you have to play hard, you have to intimidate and go after people. The last three or four practices, you can really see a change in him and he's starting to play like that."

Meyer isn't the only person noticing the change. Left tackle Jack Mewhort has also seen it, and he's probably gotten the best vantage point to see such an improvement.

"He obviously has all the physical tools," Mewhort said.

"He’s blessed. I see him coming along every day. People may not have seen that chip on his shoulder before, but I've definitely seen it as spring develops. If he keeps going, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in this conference."

Playing angry and with a chip on your shoulder is something that Meyer has championed since he's been at Ohio State. It also happened to be one of John Simon's greatest strengths. If Washington can find that same anger, and use it on the football field, he is going to be in for a very good year.

He may not replace John Simon entirely, but if the shoes fit even a little bit, wear them.

And who knows, maybe things will go so well for Washington and the Buckeyes that talk of an "Urban Adolphus Washington Meyer Jr." will pop up.

If that ever happens, then you will truly know that Adolphus Washington has replaced John Simon.

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