By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
The easiest offensive strategy in all of football would be for the Calvary offensive coaching staff to hand the ball to junior running back James Simon. Again, and again, and again.
You’ve got a four-star running back lining up in your backfield who averages almost eight yards per carry, and yet Simon gets about 10 carries per game.
But there’s no doubt he makes the most of them. Simon is averaging a rushing touchdown every nine carries. In an offense that features a passing game that has produced more than 3,000 yards this season, it might seem as though he is both underutilized and unnoticed.
Yet he is neither.
“At my position, the goal is to not get so much wear and tear on my body,” said Simon. “It’s definitely not needed. I definitely feel like it could get to 20 or 25 carries a game if I have to. I’d love to do that, if it meant winning the game for my team.”
“As good as he is, he sometimes touches the ball three times in a game,” Calvary head coach Rodney Guin said. “He’s so unselfish. He never says a word about it.”
Is there a temptation to just hand it to Simon as many times as possible and see what happens? “That night might come,” Guin said with a laugh. “But we want him healthy in the playoffs.”
Simon is as healthy as he can be as the Cavaliers enter the quarterfinals Friday night against Parkview Baptist at 7 o’clock at Jerry Barker Stadium.
“With the way they keep me healthy and well rested, I’m 100 percent every week,” said Simon.
Simon’s older brother is on the Cavs’ team and his father (John III) is the offensive coordinator at Grambling State. He had a record-setting career at Louisiana Tech (1998-2001) and played three seasons in the NFL.
“It helps that he comes from a football family,” Guin said. “He’s grown up around football. That helps him understand his role on the team.”
“It’s benefitted me a lot, especially since my dad played the same position I am playing at every single level,” Simon said. “He definitely knows the ups and downs and all the things to deal with. With my mom, too, they all know about the football life and how it goes and are very supportive about it.”
Simon gets plenty of analysis from his father, and there’s plenty of self-analysis.
“Even as a kid, I remember thinking about how I could have done things better,” said Simon. “Even now in high school when I watch film, I try to figure out what I could have done better, more than just look at the highlights. My dad would do that, too. At the end of the day, nobody’s perfect, so you have to look at what you could have done better to fix that.”
It’s hard not to notice the five elastic bands Simon wears on his left wrist – Texas, Alabama, Notre Dame, LSU and Texas A&M. Is that a coincidence or does that mean something?
“It could be … possibly,” he says. “But it’s just schools that I like a lot.”
Strange as it may seem, if Simon were ever asked to draw up one play for himself, it wouldn’t be a running play.
“Honestly, I would put myself out wide and run a deep route,” he said. “I know I could do it. People don’t know it, but I can run routes and I can catch the ball. I feel like that would show off my talents.”
But for now, he will just be taking it week by week, carry by carry, which feeds into what he loves most about football.
“Really, it’s just having fun, especially with my friends,” Simon said. “It’s one thing to just go out and play football, but to be able to do it with your friends and the people you hang out with makes it even better.”
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