REGINA — After 15 spectacular CFL seasons, Geroy Simon officially announced his retirement Wednesday. He leaves the game as the league’s all-time leading receiver.
With 1,029 catches, 16,352 yards and 103 touchdowns on his resume, Simon has accomplished just about everything a receiver could in the Canadian Football League. Last season, the veteran slotback joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders via trade after a 12-year tenure with the BC Lions.
Click image to enlarge
The sure-handed pass-catcher helped the Riders capture the Grey Cup on home soil and earn his third championship ring. Added primarily as a depth receiver, Simon stepped up on the biggest stage, capping off his career with two touchdown passes in the big game — the only Grey Cup majors of his career.
Simon began his career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999 where joined the likes of Milt Stegall and Kahari Jones in a dynamic Blue and Gold offence. he caught 51 passes for 725 yards and 7 TDs in 2000, before signing as a free agent with the BC Lions in 2001.
His time with the Lions is where Simon would cement his legacy, earning six league all-star nods (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011) and seven West Division All-Star selections (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011).
The 2006 season was Simon’s finest, posting career highs in receiving yards (1,856), receptions (105) and touchdowns (15). As a result, he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player and capped off the year with his first Grey Cup championship as the Lions defeated the Montreal Alouettes in Winnipg.
In 2012, Simon completed what would be his final year in BC by becoming the all-time leader in receiving yards, surpassing former teammate Milt Stegall. A year, later he would add the CFL’s all-time receptions title to his resume, surpassing former Montreal Alouette Ben Cahoon.
Simon, 38, twice played for teams that won Grey Cups at home – the 2011 B.C. Lions and last year with the Roughriders.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win a Grey Cup at a neutral site,” Simon told The Canadian Press. “But to win at home twice, not too many people can come close to that.
“I feel very privileged to have done it.”
Then again, being the most prolific receiver in CFL history isn’t shabby, either.
“No, not at all,” Simon said with a chuckle. “That’s a close second.”
However, last year’s Grey Cup win was much different than Simon’s first two. With BC, he was a focal point of the offence whereas with Saskatchewan he was a mentor for the youthful Riders.
“I still believe I made a huge contribution (with Riders) but it wasn’t stats,” Simon said. “It was more in the background, in the locker-room helping mentor guys, helping them get to the right spots and get better.
“You can’t measure those by stats. But to have the opportunity to catch two touchdown passes and win the game in that manner, it was really special to me.”
Simon was prepared to return for a 16th season before noticing some subtle hints it was time to retire.
“Even though I wanted to play, my preparation was quite different than any other year because I was busy doing many other things,” Simon said. “I’d miss a workout here and there and there’d be times where instead of going my normal two hours in the gym I’d go for an hour. It was just different.
“Now, I would’ve been able to get to training camp and play at a high level, but I think karma has a way of working its way out. Things happen for a reason and I think I was just prepared physically and mentally to move on.”
Simon finalized the decision to retire about two weeks ago while visiting Rome with his wife.
“We talked and I said, ‘Maybe it’s just time to move on,”’ he said. “She was more concerned than I was.
“I didn’t want to get to a certain point where I tarnished my legacy on the field with mediocre play or frustration at the end of my career because that would leave a sour taste in my mouth. I left a place that was so good to me for a number of years and went somewhere that was a heated rival. To win a Grey Cup in that place, I felt vindicated, like my career had come full circle and it was time.”
Simon admitted leaving B.C. was difficult. He and the Lions had mutually agreed to the trade to Saskatchewan after the Lions indicated Simon’s role would change in 2013.
However, Simon said his longtime association with B.C. GM Wally Buono made his transition easier.
“In the end it’s all about business,” Simon said. “The B.C. Lions made a business decision so I had to do that for my business, the Simon business.
“It was easy for me to move on because I didn’t take it personally. I learned from the best in Wally. He takes all the emotion out of it, that’s a learned skill. I was around him enough to know it’s not personal, it’s just business.”
B.C. defensive coordinator Mark Washington applauded his former teammate deciding to retire on top.
“Very proud, very proud of him,” Washington said. “A kid from Johnstown, Pa., goes to the University of Maryland and now is the all-time leading everything in the CFL when it comes to receiving.
“He had an awesome career – a storybook-type career. For him to go out as a champion, it’s fitting.”
Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips also paid tribute to Simon.
“He was just a perfect professional in my opinion,” Phillips said. “He taught me the ropes and helped me become a better DB.
“He’s definitely a true Hall of Famer in every aspect, not just football-wise, but as a person. It’s sad to see him go because of how much he brought to the game and how much he brought to the CFL. He went out in the right fashion.”
Simon will be eligible for selection into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017. So will former Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who retired earlier this off-season as pro football’s all-time passing leader.
It would only be fitting if the CFL’s all-time leading passer and top receiver were inducted together.
“That’s actually awesome, I never thought about that,” Simon said. “Anthony Calvillo is a legend in this league, a great example not only for myself but also younger players in this league to aspire to be.
“He was a consummate professional throughout his career. He’d be very deserving of going into the Hall of Fame and if we have that opportunity to go together, I’d definitely be honoured.”