COLUMBUS: Ohio State senior defensive lineman John Simon’s postgame speech was so stirring that coach Urban Meyer vowed to name his next child after him.
The co-captain addressed the team after a 35-28 victory over the University of California Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Simon had battled a shoulder injury all week and although trainers kept telling Meyer that he should be fine, it didn’t heal as quickly as they had hoped.
Yet Simon played anyway, finishing with one tackle for loss and a sack.
“He just lost it in the locker room as far as just sharing, opening up his soul,” Meyer said. “It makes us all look in the mirror and say, ‘Are we doing enough for our team?’
“Can you put a jersey up there or something that says John Simon, because that’s a grown-ass man, excuse my language. If we have another child, I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something. That’s how much I love that guy.”
Simon joked about the improbability of another Meyer child.
“That’s between him and Shelley,” Simon said of Meyer’s wife. “I don’t know if he’s planning on having another son, but that’s all in the family.”
Simon said he had never been as emotional after a game before and realized his speech took some teammates by surprise.
“I try to say things that are important and if I don’t have anything I feel is very important to say, I probably won’t say it,” he said. “That means when you speak, everyone listens. I didn’t mean to come out like that so much. But all the emotion that went into that game, I wanted to tell them how I felt.
“It was a tough thing all week dealing with it. I tried to get as much rehab as I could to make sure I was good to go. With the players and the coaches trusting in me that I could get my job done, I was blessed to be put out on the field today.”
Simon’s speech inspired many Buckeyes.
“It’s something I know I’ll never forget,” junior left tackle Jack Mewhort said.
Sophomore receiver Devin Smith said Simon cried.
“You love that guy. It motivates me, seeing a guy who’s going to play in the NFL and the way he works,” Smith said. “I want to emulate some of the things he does so I can make it there.”
With the score tied at 28 with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter and Cal facing fourth-and-1 at the OSU 25, Cal coach Jeff Tedford sent out junior kicker Vincenzo D’Amato for a 42-yard field-goal attempt, even though D’Amato had already had 40- and 42-yarders sail wide left. The same happened on the third.
“We wanted to put some points on the board,” Tedford said.
A sophomore from Massillon, Smith seems to be emerging as the master of improvisation, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 72-yard pass from Braxton Miller with 3:26 remaining. Smith was not the intended receiver, but Miller found him about 5 yards behind the Golden Bears’ defense.
As offensive coordinator Tom Herman explained, the primary receiver was Corey “Philly” Brown on an option route to the boundary, and Smith’s job was to clear out. Cal safety Alex Logan, whom Miller juked on his 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, was reading Miller.
“I looked at Philly, he went to Philly, I went to Devin,” Miller said of Logan.
Asked what he was thinking, Miller said, “Just lay it up, make sure it’s there. Don’t fire it or nothing.”
Herman said, “Braxton looked at Philly and realized ‘Holy smokes, the guy who’s covering him is the one who’s supposed to be covering Devin.’ I wanted to make sure he didn’t a) overthrow him, b) he didn’t throw it out of bounds and c) he didn’t underthrow him enough so somebody could catch up to him. He did a good job putting the ball where it needed to be and letting Devin run with it.”
Smith said as soon as he caught the ball, he thought of his mother.
“My mom tells me every time I catch the ball, run like a dog is catching me,” Smith said. “When we got in the locker room, Philly was like, ‘You’re Teddy Ginn down the field.’ I thought that was pretty funny.”
OSU inducted 12 into its athletics hall of fame, including former Browns offensive lineman Dick Schafrath and Walsh Jesuit High School product Mike Vrabel, OSU’s defensive line coach. But former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, recognized for lifetime achievement, stole the show and called it his greatest honor.
“I thought about this last night. I went back over things I was appreciative of, but really none more than today,” he said. “When people respond as these people have to me, they know you’ve worked hard to get something done. Not that you’ve won a lot of games, but I would hope they think that I did a lot for a lot of kids. That was what I tried to do.”
Knight recalled when he and basketball teammate John Havlicek played catch in Ohio Stadium.
“Havlicek and I played football in high school,” Knight said. “We used to have to run. I’ve caught passes in here by the hour. One time Havlicek actually threw the ball from the goal line, I caught it on the 30-yard line on the other end of the field. I came back and I said, ‘There are a lot of people who would have been amazed at how far you threw that. I was truly amazed at what a helluva catch I made.’ ”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.