In the wildness of the stadium that sits on historic Taylor Field, following the most important win
in Saskatchewan history on Sunday night against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant hugged receiver Geroy Simon.
What the former was heard to say (through the din of the cheers and the muffling of the hug) were simple but wonderful words.
"I appreciate you teaching me to be a champion," said Durant, who had just cemented his own legacy in that football-mad province.
Let's go back a bit.
A couple of seasons ago, we were chatting with Simon on some subject when he swerved away to offer words about confidence.
He said football is a humbling sport because as soon as something goes wrong a player can go from cockiness to losing that confidence quickly.
That's where he saw his own veteran role on a team.
"You can go talk to them and let them know you've been through it," said the then-B.C. Lions slot back. And the key, he reasoned, is to let them know "you can't catch two at a time. Take it one step at a time.
"You can't get to the finish line without that first step."
It was Simon who took his nervous Saskatchewan
teammates through that first step towards victory in the 101st Grey Cup game against Hamilton when he caught the contest's first touchdown, a 15-yard pass from Durant.
And away went the Riders to the biggest blowout victory, 45-23
, over an opponent in the occasion of the Grand National Drunk since the Toronto Argonauts took apart Saskatchewan 47-23, behind Doug Flutie in 1997.
Simon was not the star -- that was left to Kory Sheets
, who ran for a record 197 yards on 20 carries and two TDs. But he was the co-heart and soul, sharing with Durant, by catching three passes for 67 yards and two big touchdowns, the second for 42 yards.
Columnists and fans alike were wondering all season why GM Brendan Taman brought Simon in from the B.C. Lions, where he had crafted a Hall of Fame career, if they were hardly going to use him.
Durant was asked about that this week.
"The role he's asked to do in this offence doesn't put him in position to get the ball a lot,'' said Durant, as reported in the Regina Leader Post. "He's a smart guy. We're asking him to block defensive backs and recognize blitzes.
"It's just what is being asked of him and he's doing a great job of it. He has made key catches for us this year, but it's his presence in the locker room. People really don't understand how important that is.''
Leader on and off the field
Well, you saw on Sunday how important. Just as you saw it a month ago in Calgary when he was the calm in the middle of the storm as Sheets went face-to-face on the sideline with offensive coordinator George Cortez over a lack of carries.
He's an important dressing room and field influence in a game where words like "leadership" and "character" have lost their meaning through over use.
He's a future head coach who, it says here, would be a nice pick up for Le Rouge et Noir d'Ottawa, the expansion club that could hire Simon as a player, teacher and guidance with a promise of a future sideline job to come.
You know, one had to run a finger all the way down to 25th on the list of receivers
this season to find the name Geroy Simon, sitting with 40 catches for 565 yards and three TDs. Something of a comedown for the guy who is first all-time in catches (1,029) and yards (16,352).
Didn't complain much. Did his job. Showed up.
And reportedly wants to show up again next season (it would be his 16th). Who is going to tell him no?
The Riders might not be able to. Ottawa shouldn't. B.C. never should have.
Here's an interesting stat if Simon does, actually, call it a career.
Back on July 8, 1999, he made his CFL debut as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber (where he would stay two years), catching zero passes for zero yards.
It was against Hamilton. The next week, he caught eight. Superman took off from there.
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