Pat Brennan / Lantern photographer
INDIANAPOLIS – Despite John Simon’s reluctance to promote himself in the run up to the NFL Draft in April, he seems actually quite good at it. The former Ohio State football captain and defensive lineman continued that success during the NFL Scouting Combine this past weekend.
At the Combine, NFL Draft hopefuls participate in interviews with team scouts, coaches, general managers and the media. There is on-field testing and measuring of the players’ athleticism, but the interviews provide that additional chance to leave an impression or address outstanding concerns regarding character, decision making, etc.
Simon seems imbued with modesty and a quiet confidence, so it’s not hard to imagine him being at odds with the self-promoting going on all around him at the Combine. During his Saturday media availability at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Ind., Simon laughed at the mention of the self-promotion.
“It’s a different situation (for me),” said Simon, who smiled down at the table on which he was resting his hands. The truth is that Simon has been successfully marketing himself to NFL franchises for weeks. It’s an endeavor that began during the week leading up to the Jan. 26 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
There, Simon sustained a shoulder injury that forced him to miss practice time, the Senior Bowl itself and the Combine’s tests and drills, too. But he remained in Mobile after his injury. He made the trip to Indianapolis, as well, both times for the purpose of networking and interviewing with NFL personnel.
That networking and interviewing, Simon said, has resulted in a conversation with most NFL teams. Three teams Simon mentioned by name, one of which was the Cleveland Browns, could be particularly interested in acquiring the player’s services.
“I’ve talked to a lot of teams, especially considering the Senior Bowl and (the Combine),” Simon said. “Really enjoying the process and making some great relationships with some organizations.”
Despite Simon’s apparent success in marketing himself, he’s slightly averse to the practice of self-promotion – a fact longtime friend and former Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti confirmed about Simon.
Mostly, Mauti was a determined yet publicly quiet leader on State College, Pa.’s beloved football team. Once last July, Mauti dipped his toe into the mainstream media spotlight after PSU was handed crippling NCAA sanctions as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. He professed passion for and commitment to PSU on behalf of his teammates in a televised speech, but that was likely an exception to Mauti’s usual team-first mentality.
Simon and Mauti are both “team-first” guys – they appear to be cut from the same cloth in that way. They abide by the personal-selling norms of the Combine with a shared aversion.
Mauti also chuckled at the thought of him and “Johnny” selling themselves to NFL general managers.
“It is a little out of my element, I will admit that,” said Mauti, who laughed as he loosened his tight grip on the podium where he was standing. “You know, just like anything, you’ve got to get used to it. You’ve got to adapt or die. I’m always a humble person (and) Johnny’s that way, too. He’s a great guy.”
You could say Simon was still in “team-first mode” at the Combine. Instead of donning one of the wild, fluorescent-colored Under Armour shirts provided to all Combine invitees, he wore his OSU-issued “Men of Action” T-shirt with a Block “O.” Simon said he also spent time on Saturday rooting for former OSU teammates – former tight end and wide receiver Jake Stoneburner and offensive lineman Reid Fragel – as they went through Combine exercises.
Simon said he can still be a “team guy” even while jockeying for draft position and improving his own stock.
“I’m here rooting for my teammates just as they’re rooting for me. I know we had two guys go out today and perform pretty well. I’m happy about that,” Simon said. “But now it’s back to the recruiting process where you’re recruiting yourself to other teams, so it (promoting yourself) is a little different and it’s something you’ve got to get used to.”
Simon might not want to ever admit that he’s at peace with having to promote himself for the sake of his career, but he certainly appears to be getting there.
Of all the conversations he’s had with NFL teams, Simon noted past ones with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos as especially positive. And he’s not done yet.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can to build relationships with teams and communicate with them,” he said. “Hopefully it all pays off on Draft Day.”