Holy Name grad Jake Simon overcomes injury continues to pursue football, life goals while giving back to others
When Holy Name graduate Jake Simon suffered a traumatic leg injury while playing football for the Walsh University, there were many dreams of his that seemed as if they would have to stay that way:
Game-winning touchdowns, a college football championship and a chance at a professional football career, just to name a few.
But as he played in the Division III National Championship game for Mt. Union, carrying the ball for 87 yards and two touchdowns, Simon felt as if what was once a dream had just come true for him.
“It’s something that I’ll always remember,” he said, less than an our removed from passing on his football knowledge to players at his alma mater during a June workout session.
After graduating from Mt. Union this spring with a degree in Applied Criminal Justice, Simon returned to Holy Name as an assistant coach. Recently-named Head Coach Dan Wondolowski, also a Mt. Union grad, offered Simon an assistant coaching the Green Wave football team this season, which he graciously accepted.
“Coach Wondolowski called a week before finals and asked what he thinks about coaching,” Simon said. “I consider myself very blessed to be back at Holy Name and able to help the kids out. It’s something that I think almost every alum wants to do is go back and be a coach.”
Back when Simon was deciding between Holy Name and St. Edward, he decided that his love of his friends and family in his hometown of Parma Heights were enough to make the decision an easy one. This is another reason he felt compelled to come back in a coaching role.
During his time as a player at Holy Name, Simon earned All-State honors his sophomore, junior and senior years, complemented with multiple All-District and All-Conference honors as well.
As he helps other athletes make the most of their years in high school football, Simon hopes his football career still has a few more left in it. Simon is training for tryouts with the Canadian Football League (CFL) between December and January.
“It’s always been my dream to play professional football,” he said.
During his second season at Walsh in 2009, Simon’s dream was nearly erased for good. While in the middle of a game, a pocket of blood vessels in his thigh burst, sidelining him for months. He soon found out that he had a rare case of Compartment Syndrome in his thigh.
“Every doctor I went to said I should never play football again,” he said.
Simon didn’t listen. Instead, he decided to tempt fate and to find the strength to keep pushing himself.
“You can overcome anything. You’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep moving, be brave and have faith,” he said.
He completed his physical therapy and as soon as he was able to, despite doctors’ advice not to, he began to hit the weight room as often as possible.
Simon spent a lot of time working out before, during and after the season and couldn’t wait to get back to it after his injury.
He transferred to Mt. Union in the fall of 2010 and found a place on the team.
During the 2012 State Semifinal match up against Mary Hardin Baylor University, the No. 2 ranked DIII team in country, he scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard run that began with only five seconds left in the game.
“I was supposed to just try to get us into closer field goal position, but, a hole opened up and I went for it,” Simon said, about the game-winning score.
A fumble on the final play of the game led to yet another score for the Purple Raiders as they won it 48-35.
Simon’s performance in the Stagg Bowl against St. Thomas helped seal the deal on Mt. Union’s 2013 Division III Championship by a final score of 28-10.
Having fulfilled the dream of winning a college championship, Simon is looking forward to pursuing his professional ambitions.
Should things not work out for him with the CFL he has a more than reputable backup plan lined up, following in the footsteps of his brother, father, uncle and grandfather…sort of.
All of the aforementioned family members wore a badge and swore to help protect the people of the community they serve/served (Fairview Park).
The difference is, they were all firefighters while Simon, on the other hand, aspires to become a police officer. “When I told them I wanted to be a cop, they were like ‘are you sure about that?’” Simon said with a laugh.
To Simon, the police profession seems like a perfect fit for him, which he would be proud to do.
“I’ve always been intrigued and interested in the law enforcement side of the world,” he said. “I want to help and protect people. It would be an honor to put a badge on and rise to the occasion and protect people.”
Simon even sees qualities that he learned through football which he believes will help him in the task of becoming an officer.
“You’ve got to have a lot of characteristics and values that contribute to the real world,” he said. “Playing football in college helps you learn to balance things in your life. Work, family, football and other things.”
He credits his parents with making him grounded enough to know to have an idea for a career should football not work out for him at the professional level.
“They were big on always being prepared and having a backup plan,” he said. “But for now, I’m still young man and I want to try for my dream.”
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