COLUMBUS, Ohio - After recording just one tackle against California on Saturday, very few would nominate John Simon for Ohio State's defensive player of the week award. But according to his coach, what the senior defensive end did off the field on Saturday had a greater impact than anything he did during the Buckeyes' 35-28 victory over the Golden Bears.
According to Urban Meyer, the senior captain let out a heart-felt speech following the game, which was enough to keep a smile on the first-year head coach's face during his postgame press conference, despite the Buckeyes' closely contested victory.
"I've done this a long time, man, and he's as good you mark that down there, can you put a jersey up there or something that says 'John Simon'," Meyer said. "Because that's a grown ass man."
What exactly it was that Simon said following OSU's third win of the season remained behind closed doors during players' postgame interviews, but after talking to several members of the Buckeyes' roster, it was clear that his message was an uplifting one.
"He just poured his heart out to us," OSU safety Christian Bryant said. "He just told us how he felt about the win and we just got to finish the year out strong."
OSU left tackle Jack Mewhort said that Simon's speech was out of character for the weight lifting fanatic, but that it made for a moment that he'll never forget.
"John is the type of dude who is typically stoned-faced and stoic, but he leads by example," Mewhort said. "He just broke down and opened up after the game and it was really cool to see that from someone like him, a leader, captain and guy we all admire. It is something I know I'll never forget."
If actions speak louder than words, then the impact that Simon had on his teammates was even greater than Meyer gave him credit for. After spending the week nursing an injured shoulder that never fully healed, the Youngstown native still gave it a go against the Bears, recording a third quarter sack to give him his lone tackle of the game.
Simon said that the uncertainty of his status in the days leading up to the game, coupled with the come-from-behind nature of the Buckeyes' victory, played a role in inspiring him to give his postgame speech.
"It was a tough game for us. I was a little dinged up, so to be able to go out there with the team it meant the world to me," Simon said. "I just wanted to express that to the guys. We're all a family. It's just something I felt like I had to do."
Playing most of Saturday's snaps at OSU's left defensive end position, Simon doesn't expect there to be any lingering effects from the injury that almost kept him out of Saturday's game. Nevertheless, after given the opportunity to say a few words to the team by co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, Simon did the best that he could to repay his coaches and teammates for giving him the opportunity to play while still dinged up.
"If it's up to me, I'm going to be out there all the time. It was a tough thing all week just dealing with it," Simon said of his injury. "With the players trusting in me and the coaches trusting in me that I could get my job done, I was blessed enough to be put out on the field today."
If Meyer's postgame comments are any indication, Simon isn't the only one who's thankful that he got to play against the Bears on Saturday. The OSU coach said that his captain's comments inspired not only his players but his coaching staff to attempt to match the effort and intensity that No. 54 displayed.
"That's what this great game teaches you," Meyer said. "If we have another child I want to name him, what is it, Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that."
And while grateful for a compliment of that magnitude, Simon said that he's not going to hold his coach to that promise.
"That's between him and Shelley," Simon said, referring to Meyer's wife. "I don't know too much about that."