One door closes, another one opens
Simon eventually took recruiting trips to Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, Texas A&M and UCLA – and made sure to ask every coaching staff he met the same question. Simon told the coaching staffs “I hope I play 10 years in the league, but whenever it’s done for me, I know I want to coach and I know the rite of passage of coaching is to be a great assistant. Could you see there being an opportunity for me down the road?”
Simon ended up choosing Tennessee for a number of reasons, but at the forefront was a particular conversation he had with then-Volunteers head coach Phillip Fulmer, which Simon referred to as “authentic.”
While playing linebacker for the Volunteers, Simon was named All-SEC in 2003 and 2005, but a series of injuries – beginning with a serious knee injury suffered while playing in the Army All-American game before he ever set foot in Knoxville – eventually cut his playing career short.
Simon was eventually drafted by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round (No. 252 overall) but more injury setbacks forced him to sign an injury settlement. His playing days were over.
“I picked the phone up and called my defensive coordinator at Tennessee, Coach (John) Chavis and told him, ‘I know you guys might not have anything there but I’m ready to coach.’ He said, ‘Well, let me talk to Coach Fulmer,’” Simon said.
A week later Simon was heading back to Tennessee – Fulmer kept his promise. Simon caught on as a graduate assistant and, eventually, his dream of becoming a coach became a reality when the Vols made him an assistant coach.