Geroy Simon poised to run the B.C. Lions into the record books
There will come a moment early in the 2012 B.C. Lions season when Geroy Simon cradles a pass in his arms and runs into the record books as the Canadian Football League’s all-time leader in receiving yards. It’s not a question of if but when, and there’s a very strong chance the record will fall in the Lions June 29 season opener at home against Winnipeg.
Simon needs just 67 yards to pass the 15,153 Milt Stegall amassed during his career and move to the top of a remarkably talented list of receivers who have starred in the CFL over the years. His magic moment may still be months away, but the veteran slotback is busy these days putting in the effort off the field so he’s ready to run routes and turn defenders inside out once the season begins.
At 36, Simon is a veteran playing a young man’s position in a young man’s sport. But with age comes wisdom, and Simon believes his approach to off-season training is one of the main reasons he’s been able to stay so healthy and reach the heights he has. The 2006 CFL most outstanding player is a six-time league all-star who earned that honour again last season when he led the Lions with 84 catches for 1,350 yards and hauled in eight touchdown passes, making an impact almost every time he touched the football.
“Most guys take a month or two off and then slowly get back into it,” Simon tells the Georgia Straight in a telephone interview. “But I don’t like getting out of shape. That really hurts guys if they gain 15 or 20 pounds and then they have to spend the rest of their off-season trying to lose weight and get back into shape. I take a week-and-a-half off and then I get back in the gym, doing some stretching, cardio, yoga, Pilates: things that keep my body strong but keep the weight off me.”
Having played football since he was a kid, Simon says he doesn’t think about fundamentals like catching footballs or doing any on-field drills until May, which gives him a month to build up to the Lions annual training camp. Entrenched in the community, Simon, who lives year-round not far from the team’s Cloverdale training facility, says the only time he touches a football at this time of year is when he’s coaching kids or conducting clinics—something he does throughout the year.
Otherwise, his focus is on ensuring he’s in peak physical condition for the start of the new season. This year will be his 14th in the CFL and his 12th with the Lions.
“I basically train in phases,” he explains of breaking his off-season into segments. “The first phase is staying loose and staying flexible. The second phase is strength training. The third phase is endurance training, and the fourth phase is explosive movement, to be ready to go into training camp and doing all the things I need to do to be an effective player. A lot of guys will train so hard in the off-season that by the time they get to training camp, they have plateaued and they are basically coming back down. When I hit training camp, I hit it running so that I can maintain that all through the season.” And when Simon mentions running, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s into a phase of his off-season routine that includes individual sessions with a track coach to maximize his on-field speed.
His is a job that requires precision to run the proper pass routes, and although he no longer requires jets to be a deep threat on every down, Simon still wants to have that extra gear to get a step behind defenders.
“I’m running a lot of track, and I’m training my body to run as fast as I can,” he says. “Once you hit 30, you lose a step if you don’t train your body the right way. I work with a track coach and a personal trainer on the fundamentals of running and explosiveness. You might have lost a step, but if you work on being efficient as a runner, you can still maintain your speed if not get faster.”
That is not what those lining up against Simon want to hear. But the fact that he’s still finding ways to improve should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Simon master his craft over the years.
A model of consistency with nine straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards receiving to his credit, Simon is closing in on the greatest achievement in his stellar career. With two home games to start the season, it seems all but a certainty that the receiving record will become his at B.C. Place—a special opportunity to share the occasion with the many Lions fans who have embraced him over the years.
“It will mean a lot,” he says. “It will show the hard work and dedication I have put in—not just the work people see but all of the work, like I’m doing right now in the gym and on the track. It will be great to share it with my teammates and the fans. It’s going to be a special moment.”
For years, Simon has been considered one of the best to play the game, but before long he will stand alone. Success in sports almost always comes as a result of hard work. Based on the way he continues to push himself, it’s pretty clear that few are working any harder than Simon. And since he’s trying to build up speed in the off-season, it’s hard to imagine him slowing down. So the record he’s about to break should be his for a long, long time to come.