Having grown up as a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens rookie linebacker John Simon knows to tread lightly when speaking about his former favorite team, which happens to be current his employer’s biggest rival.
Draft day must have been a little awkward.
Due to the logjam of pass rushing talent in front of him, Simon has been unable to really put much on display for Ravens fans. Simon has been primarily delegated to cutting his teeth in a special teams role before he can seriously throw his name into contention for playing time at outside linebacker.
Chances are, Simon won’t be a major factor on Sunday, but that doesn’t take away the story of a football fan having the opportunity to play so close to home in the stadium of the team he rooted for growing up. Unfortunately, given the circumstances and the bitter dislike between the Ravens and Steelers – from the locker rooms down to the fan base – Simon essentially pleaded the fifth when it came to saying anything about his interest in Sunday’s opponent.
“It’s exciting, but like I said, I’m a Raven now,” Simon said. “It’ll be nice being close to home and being able to get out there on special teams a little bit.”
“It’ll be surreal for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help. It’ll be a business trip.”
Simon’s answers today backed up the response he gave me during training camp when I asked him if he owned a terrible towel.
“Burned them, they’re all gone,” Simon said last summer.
Clearly, Simon doesn’t really want to talk about his childhood rooting interest in the Steelers, or even if he cares about them now. He knows that the same people he once cheered with will now be rooting against him on Sunday.
Even though I probably have more negative feelings for the Pittsburgh Steelers than for most other things on this earth, I can’t help but be happy for someone within the Ravens locker room that has the opportunity that Simon will on Sunday. It reminds me a bit of former Ravens wide receiver LaQuan Williams, who got to suit up for his hometown team each and every week (he was even lucky enough to play at M&T Bank Stadium during high school and college).
While it’s obviously a different circumstance – playing FOR your childhood team as opposed to AGAINST them – you still know that Sunday must hold some special meaning for Simon, regardless of his reluctance to admit as much.
Though some reading this will likely never forgive Simon for having waved a Terrible Towel in his past, at least he was born into his allegiance for the black and gold. It’s not like he’s from Idaho or New Mexico (or Maryland); he’s from Youngstown, Ohio, which is just an hour drive from Pittsburgh.
Put aside the Steeler-hate blinders for just a moment – as a fan of football in general, one can’t help but be excited for Simon to have the opportunity to suit up against a team that once meant so much to him. That’s something that many of us could only dream of.