CALGARY — Geroy Simon has grown immune to trash talk.
The Hall of Fame-bound B.C. Lions receiver has heard it all from defensive backs — comments about family members, his looks, his abilities — and it all tends to slide off his back like water off a duck.
And yet one conversation, from way back in Week 2 of this Canadian Football League season stays with him — mainly because it was from a player, Calgary Stampeders halfback Brandon Smith, who rarely talks on the field, and also because it conveyed the respect the two have for each other.
“I ran a route on him in that game and it was a route that I had beaten him on pretty bad once before,” said Simon. “He was like, ‘Yeah, I watched that game where you ran that route.’ He was prepared for it. A lot of guys just rely on their raw talent, but you can tell that he watches a lot of film.”
The Brandon Smith you see on the field, covering the best receiver each team has to offer on a weekly basis, is the finished product of long hours spent scrutinizing game film on his iPad. The man has raw, natural ability, but in the midst of his finest season as pro with the Stampeders, it’s the work he puts in off the field as much as on that has made him a leading candidate for the Stamps’ defensive player of the year nomination.
“Basically, we put him on their best player every week,” said Stamps defensive backs coach Tony Missick. “He puts in that work in the weight-room, and he’s always studying on that iPad. Good lord; he might not put in as much film work as the coaches, but he comes pretty close with his studying.”
The men he covers are definitely noticing, and the numbers show it:
Sept. 25 vs. Hamilton, Smith covered rookie star Chris Williams and held him to two catches and a season-low 17 yards.
Oct. 1 vs. Saskatchewan, Smith matched up with Weston Dresler, who made two catches for 10 years, both season-lows.
Saturday vs. B.C., Smith and Simon match wits, with Simon making two catches including a touchdown, but that came with Smith on the bench collecting his wits after taking a knock to the head (“It just shook up my noodles a bit,” explained Smith with a smile”).
“He very seldom makes a mistake, it seems like,” said Dressler. “He puts himself in good position, he has real good feet and it’s tough to get him turned around as a receiver and get him out of position. Just a guy who always does his job and is always in the right spot.
“Within our team, he is (very respected, for sure). We watch fim on those guys, and he’s been matched up with the top receivers in the league every week. And he’s done a pretty good job of it. Just a guy that for whatever reason you don’t hear very much about, but he’s deifnitely doing his thing on the field.”
One of the reasons you don’t hear much about Smith is that he refuses to pump his own tires. On the topic of the award nomination, for instance, he’d be just as happy to see fellow halfback Keon Raymond, who’s enjoying a stellar season of his own, get the team award.
As well, because he’s been so effective in man coverage, few balls are being thrown his way, and it’s tough to build gaudy numbers — he has just one interception this season, but six knockdowns, tied for tops on the team with Raymond and Brandon Isaac.
And during games, he’s all dash and no flash, and he seems permanently set on “mute.”
“It’s never trash talk,” he said. “I give props when props are due. If you beat me on a play, you beat me. But I will not let you KEEP beating me. It’s all about getting better and having fun playing the game. It’s not about boasting and all that. I don’t have time for that. I’m just out here doing my job and having a good time.”
Maybe he’s not getting a lot of attention from fans and the media, but he’s certainly earned the respect of the men he is matched with on a weekly basis.
“He’s one of the best I’ve seen this year when it comes to playing straight man,” said Simon. “You can tell he does a lot of homework, he knows a lot of my tendencies, what I like to do, what I don’t like to do. He’s a good, scrappy player. I give him credit every time I play against him; I tell him he’s a good player and keep working at it.
“He’s going to be a good player in this league for a long time.”