NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

Crestwood Shrine Bowl defensive lineman Simon becomes Bulldog

By EDDIE LITAKER
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/8/18

Crestwood High School Shrine Bowl defensive lineman Chris Simon is heading to South Carolina State University next fall to join the Bulldogs' storied football program, and he's taking a few Stallions along with him.

Simon will be joined by Lee …

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NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

Crestwood Shrine Bowl defensive lineman Simon becomes Bulldog

Posted

Crestwood High School Shrine Bowl defensive lineman Chris Simon is heading to South Carolina State University next fall to join the Bulldogs' storied football program, and he's taking a few Stallions along with him.

Simon will be joined by Lee Central High School running back Demetrius DuBose and defensive lineman Deontae Lowery, a factor that Simon said should assist in the sometimes challenging transition from high school to college.

"It plays a big factor in where you are going, as far as having players from home or locally that you know go to the same school," Simon said. "It helps with the team factor. You become a team quicker, you become a family quicker and things flow together a little bit better."

Simon said word that longtime SCSU head coach Buddy Pough plans to step down after this season did not sway his decision to become a Bulldog.

"Coach Pough is going to be there for another year," Simon said. "He does have the opportunity to stay there every year, of course, but like any other coach, they're always looking to move up to the next level. But, as far as I'm concerned, he's going to be there when I'm there for this term."

Simon said SCSU's storied football history and winning tradition played a major role in his decision to extend his football playing days at the Orangeburg school, along with the close proximity to home.

"They have more than, I think, 15 MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) championships, I think it's 17 in total," Simon said. "It's just the area. A lot of guys don't venture too far from home here in South Carolina. I mean, it's South Carolina. Everybody loves the South, loves to be close to family, so I think the location plays a big part in it, as well as me knowing more people that go there. I feel like the more commits that find out there's a guy in their area going to that school, it kind of helps out with their decision as well. (It's like) this guy's from the same area that I'm from, kind of the same attitude, same work ethic. People just want to stay around what they're comfortable with. They don't want to be in a bad spot."

Simon was a 3-year starter with the Knights after joining the varsity program in his freshman year, playing on both sides of the ball. In his senior season, Simon recorded 40 tackles, 10 quarterback sacks, two blocked kicks and seven quarterback pressures while earning The Sumter Item All-Area honors as a defensive lineman and being named as an all-region defensive end.

"South Carolina State is getting a steal of a player, definitely, at his position," said Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson. "He can play offensive line or defensive line. They're getting a football player that can compete on either side of the ball, and can help them. He's a hard worker, played four years of varsity at Crestwood High School, played a lot of football on both sides of the ball and did a tremendous job for us. It sounds like he's going to get an opportunity to develop and grow, get a little bigger and just kind of mature as a young man. I expect to see him get a lot of playing time at South Carolina State."

While Simon made great strides on the football field under the leadership of Nelson and his staff, it was the push he received on the academic side that stands out for Simon.

"The biggest thing that stands out with me here is the academics," Simon said. "Dr. (Shirley) Gamble, our principal, crunched down on academics so hard the beginning of my sophomore year, just trying to get test scores up and everything (new requirements) that's been going on in South Carolina. It made a big change in the school system, honestly, as far as, like, weaning the good from the bad. So now you have kids in Crestwood High School that are doing their work, getting a 3.0 GPA (grade point ratio) or over and enrolling into those extra (college credit) courses. ... I really feel like Dr. Gamble and our coaches and staff have held a lot together, and they really do support people who are trying to do something."

In Simon's three years as a starter, the Knights advanced a little further each season. After missing the 4A state playoffs in 2015, Crestwood fell in the first round the next year before coming away with a first-round playoff win in 2017.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful accomplishment to know that you progress in something every year," Simon said. "It was not easy coming in here (with a) new coach, new program, learning new plays, learning to get with new people. I mean, when you've got new coaches, everything changes. We came in here 1-9 my freshman year, my sophomore year we were 2-7, and then my junior year we went to the playoffs and couldn't get that first win. I mean, I cried. But this year, we were able to go into the second round and play North Myrtle Beach. That first playoff win, as a team, that's when you realize it's a serious thing. You realize that you love the sport, and people come together. ... I just wish we could have gone further."

While confident in his ability to contribute to the continued success of SCSU football, Simon is comfortable with the idea of redshirting during his freshman season.

"I actually do feel comfortable redshirting my first year there at S.C. State, just because of the environment that I'm coming from," Simon said. "It will give me time to focus in, it will give me time to bring my GPA up and get a headstart on those other guys that supposedly might get playing time. I'm going in there with the mindset of coming in my sophomore year and I'll get plenty of playing time, my junior year I'll get plenty of time, my senior year and, who knows, maybe I'll be out of there playing in the NFL. But my freshman year I really just want to hone in on my academics, getting used to the program, the area, the team, picking up some of the good habits from those older guys, picking out what they're doing to make it through the system, getting to know those coaches a little bit more and what they're looking for. ... I feel pretty comfortable about that. Big things are coming for Chris Simon. Big things."