Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
Regardless of what inspired John Simon’s postgame outpouring, the typically stoic, tight-lipped senior captain and defensive lineman said he still has no idea where it came from.
“I can’t tell you I’m planning speeches before the game or anything like that,” he said. “It came out and, you know, I just wanted to tell them how I felt.”
Perhaps thanks to Simon’s rallying cry, a reason to battle through a season with almost nothing tangible to play for might have never been more apparent.
The question, which has almost become rhetorical, of “what is this team playing for” finally might have been answered, but not because of anything that happened on the field that day.
After surviving California, 35-28, first-year coach Urban Meyer said Simon “opened his soul” for everyone else to see.
Simon, Meyer said, was close to not suiting up against the Golden Bears.
“He had a sore shoulder. They kept telling me all week, it should be fine, it should be fine; it just didn’t heal as fast as we hoped,” he said.
But Simon did play, and to the tune of one tackle and one sack.
After junior safety Christian Bryant’s late interception helped the Buckeyes (3-0) squeak by Cal in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, a near-gut wrenching loss for OSU seemed to be a gut-check win for the undefeated squad.
Meyer said Simon lost it behind the closed doors of the team’s locker room inside Ohio Stadium.
A typically corporate-like Meyer opted to share a moment with reporters that could’ve otherwise remained unknown to anyone outside of the confines in which it happened.
“Can you put a jersey up there or something that says ‘John Simon?'” Meyer asked. “Because that’s a grown ass man, excuse my language.”
While Meyer chose not to divulge the particulars of what Simon had to say, redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said the defensive lineman revealed himself.
“He just pretty much let us know that he probably wasn’t even supposed to play today but he played anyways just because he loves us,” Roby said. “So it was just that we saw the real him come out and it was a crazy moment.”
Meyer said Simon’s speech was a long look in the mirror.
“Are we doing enough for our team? That guy – what he just did in there … am I doing enough? When I say I – as our coaching staff – are we doing enough?” Meyer asked. “Are we doing as much as he’s doing?”
Playing both the interviewer and interviewee, Meyer promptly answered his own question.
“No,” Meyer said. “We’ve gotta do more. Gotta do more. (That’s) gotta get you fired up.”
Roby said the Buckeyes don’t want to fail each other.
“It’s like we don’t want to let our teammates down when it comes down to it,” he said. “That’s how football is. It’s a teammate type of game. It’s not just one player that makes a team. It’s everybody.”
That realization of that camaraderie on Saturday not only moved Roby but might have been the catalyst for Simon’s speech.
“I was excited, I was just so excited for that win,” Simon said. “That was a great win for us, guys just showing that they’ll fight to the end and handle the adversity. I think we’re a scrappy team.”
But after scraping by a team that lost its season-opener at home to Nevada, the Buckeyes will almost undoubtedly face questions and doubts about the legitimacy of their No. 16-ranking in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll.
Saturday’s game, though, might have answered at least one question amid the others it left unresolved.
What’s driving the Buckeyes through a season that will inevitably end on Nov. 24 against the University of Michigan?
It could be because they “love” each other.
“We all, like, love each other, so we all play,” Roby said.
That means even playing through potentially debilitating injuries.
“I hurt my shoulder a little bit, I came out for a few plays, but I came back because, I mean, it’s all a brotherhood,” Roby said. “That’s how we all feel about each other.”
That fellowship, Meyer said, is something he’d extend to his own flesh and blood.
“If we have another child I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that,” he said, before pausing to digest what he just said.
“Can’t wait for that headline,” Meyer said playfully. “But that’s how much I love that guy. I’m not ashamed to say I love him. Love that guy. Man.”