Dec. 4, 2012
By Mark Janssen
Lynn O. “Pappy” Waldorf, Charles Bachman, Gary Spani, and now Mark Simoneau.
Tonight in New York City, Simoneau will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, becoming only the fourth Kansas State Wildcat to earn such a distinction.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said the Wildcat linebacker from 1996-99. “It’s exciting for me and my family, but I hope it’s exciting for K-State and my hometown (of Smith Center, Kan.).”
While decorated with consensus All-America honors, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Butkus Award, and while being a part of 42 Wildcat wins as a four-year starting linebacker who recorded 400 tackles, Simoneau had no notion such an honor was coming his way this spring.
“A box arrived in the mail and it said, ‘National Football’ something, so I thought it was from the NFL,” said Simoneau, who had an 11-year National Football League career with Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Kansas City. “But inside was a football with my name on it and a note saying I was being inducted. I was shocked.”
Since then, Simoneau has also been inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame making for a whirlwind of emotions during the last few months.
All the times that his dad would get home from work “… and he would throw the ball with me. He didn’t necessarily light the fire for sports with me, but he just did all the supportive things. He played catch with me, built me a long jump pit, and was just always there for support.”
All the times that he looked up to bring brothers Tim and Jeff “… and how they were such an influence to my career and gave me something to shoot for because they were such great athletes.”
And, all the times playing football in his back yard “… in my Huffy uniform with that plastic helmet, and tiny shoulder pads that I would pull a T-shirt over. I pretended to be Walter Payton. I’m sure we didn’t tackle properly, but it was just trying to get the guy down on the ground.”
Football would later take Simoneau to Kansas State as only a modestly recruited talent out of one of the state’s premier small-school programs at Smith Center High School.
“Coach (Roger) Barta was a lot like coach (Bill) Snyder,” said Simoneau of his high school coach. “He was all about preparation and hard work. When you went through his program, you were preparing for that next level. You had proper technique and you were mentally tough. There weren’t many high schools as structured at Smith Center.”
At the time, Simoneau could squat with 585 pounds and bench press 330 pounds. He averaged better than 10 yards per carry as a running back, but still, “I really wasn’t recruited that heavily. When K-State offered, I said, ‘Yes,’ but that was really the only offer I had.”
Simoneau, who now lives in Kansas City where he owns “Simoneau Sports Performance,” remembers following the Wildcats from afar, but said, “I wasn’t that huge of a K-State fan, but I always liked K-State over KU.”
With the Wildcats from 1996-1999, K-State won 42 games, which included Big 12 North championships in 1998 and 1999, and invitations to four bowl games.
“When you’re an athlete trying to get better, it becomes a gradual process over time. When that process is going on, success doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Simoneau. “There have been times I’ve wondered if I would have missed several days of trying to get better … what it might have meant to my career. You just have to take advantage of every day to better yourself.”
Simoneau did just that, and tonight will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It’s a fraternity that includes only 914 players and 174 coaches from the nearly 4.9 million who have played or coached in the game over the last 143 years.
Of playing for Snyder, Simoneau said, “You respected him so much because he expected so much out of you. You wanted to play as flawless as possible for him. You did that by becoming a little bit better each day.”
“Mark is a tremendous young man with a wonderful family and I am extremely proud of him,” Snyder said of his former linebacker. “He had a long career in the NFL because he maintained the intrinsic values of commitment, unselfishness, hard work, mental toughness, persistence, responsibility and integrity. He has been the consummate team player throughout his life, and this is truly a well-deserved honor.”
Now with his “Simoneau Sports Performance” business in Overland Park, his mission statement mirrors that of his days at Smith Center and Kansas State.
“It’s to maximize the potential of each athlete, achieving measurable results in a competitive environment, teaching proper technique and being a positive influence in an athlete’s life,” said Simoneau.
OTHER WILDCATS IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
“PAPPY’ WALDORF: Coached the Wildcats to the school’s first league title in 1934 in the Missouri Valley Conference … a graduate of Syracuse, Waldorf had coaching stops at Oklahoma City, Kansas, Oklahoma A&M, Kansas State, Northwestern and California … a member of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
CHARLES BACHMAN: Coached the Wildcats from 1920-27 … coached at Great Lakes Naval Station and Northwestern … in the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame … was 33-23-9 as coach of the Wildcats.
GARY SPANI: The first K-State player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame … played for the Wildcats from 1974-77 when he was a three-time All-Big 8 player … in the K-State Sports Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame … school’s first consensus All-American and leader in career tackles with 543 … played nine years with the Kansas City Chiefs
2012 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
Charles Alexander, LSU; Otis Armstrong, Purdue; Steve Bartkowski, Cal; Hal Bedsole, USC; Dave Casper, Notre Dame; Ty Detmer, BYU; Tommy Kramer, Rice; Art Monk Syracuse; Greg Myers, Colorado State; Jonathan Ogden, UCLA; Gabe Rivera, Texas Tech; Scott Thomas, Air Force; John Wooten, Colorado; Phillip Furmer, Tennessee; Jimmy Johnson, Oklahoma State/Miami; R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M
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