VANCOUVER — Geroy Simon was serenaded by B.C. Lions fans as the club retired his No. 81 jersey Friday night.
Simon, the CFL’s all-time leading receiver who played 12 of his 15 seasons with B.C., was added to the team’s Ring of Honour at B.C. Place Stadium during a half-time ceremony as the Lions hosted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
He retired in the spring after helping the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the 2013 Grey Cup in his lone season playing for them.
Wearing his former Lions jersey, Simon thanked Lions owner David Braley, club management and all of his B.C. teammates, particularly his quarterbacks, for providing “support and energy” along with championships.
Simon also praised the fans, who gave him a loud ovation as he delivered an emotional speech.
“You welcomed me with open arms and gave me 12 amazing years,” he said. “I love you guys.”
Simon wiped away a tear after his son Gervon, a quarterback with the U.S. Military Academy team in Westpoint, N.Y., delivered a message in a recorded video shown on the Jumbotron.
Simon now works for the Riders as a regional scout and ambassador while maintaining his home in the Vancouver area.
He played his first two seasons with the Blue Bombers and broke former Winnipeg great Milt Stegall’s all-time receiving yards record in a game against the Bombers on June 29, 2012 at B.C. Place.
Simon finished his career with 16,352 yards and 1,029 receptions. He led the CFL in receiving yards in 2004, 2006 and 2007, and had the most receptions in 2004 and 2006. He was a six-time CFL all-star and seven-time divisional all-star.
Leading up to the ceremony, Lions players credited Simon with playing a key role in their individual success.
“Personally, for me (Simon had) a big impact on my pro career, and he’s a big mentor,” said Lions running back Andrew Harris.
B.C. coach Mike Benevides said many people don’t understand the full extent of Simon’s competitiveness and compassion.
“I’ve seen him red hot (with anger) when things aren’t going well,” said Benevides. “I’ve seen him also find a way to put his arm around somebody.”
Benevides said the 38-year-old Johnstown, Pa., native stood out for being cordial and “an outstanding sportsman” while winning two of his three Grey Cups with B.C.
“He would compete,” said Benevides. “But when it was over, it was over.”
In conjunction with the team honours, the City of Vancouver also proclaimed Friday as Geroy Simon Day.