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Kevin Simon area scout - Mid-Atlantic

By Matthew Tabeek

"I don’t think that I’ve seen anything like this, especially at this level. I think that it really starts at the top with Mr. (Arthur) Blank, what he’s about and what he stands for."

By the time he was a senior at De La Salle, Kevin Simon was one of the most highly recruited players in the country. But it was a pregame speech from his high school coach three years earlier that determined his path.

“I just remember saying to myself that ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life’ because he had just made such a huge impact on me in such a short amount of time,” said Simon, who was playing football for De La Salle High School in Concord, Calf., under the legendary Bob Ladoceur.

Under Ladoceur, De La Salle became a national power, posting 12 straight undefeated seasons (1992-2004), the nation’s longest winning streak at 151 games and it has produced many great players over the years, including former NFL players Maurice Jones-Drew, Aaron Taylor, Amani Toomer and D.J. Williams. And Ladoceur made his mark on Simon, who is now an NFL scout with the Atlanta Falcons.

“Coach Ladoceur made an impact on me, and I know I’m better for it,” Simon said. “Good coaching for me started at home. I’ve had a number of men of good morals, character, values that have also helped to enhance what was already going on from a character standpoint at home. I just felt like if I could give back to the game then I’d be doing some good.”

While reaching the NFL and landing a job as a scout with an organization like the Falcons is challenging enough, Simon had to first overcome adversity as player.

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.

Spreading his wings with the Falcons

One constant in the coaching and scouting world is change. After two years at Tennessee, Simon eventually took a job working as a combine scout for the Dallas Cowboys in 2009. After eight years there, there was “an opportunity for growth” to be a pro scout with the Falcons.

“A lot of guys might get the college side or get experience on the pro side, but there’s not too many of us that have had opportunities to get experience on both sides,” Simon said.

Simon also said the opportunity to come to Atlanta and learn under general manager Thomas Dimitroff and assistant general manager Scott Pioli about talent acquisition – and all the ways the Falcons go about improving their roster – was one he couldn’t pass up.

The Brotherhood is real

Simon said being a part of the Falcons is unlike anything he’s ever experienced – and that’s saying a lot for guy who’s played at De La Salle, tradition-rich Tennessee and worked for the Dallas Cowboys. “I don’t think that I’ve seen anything like this, especially at this level,” Simon said. “I think that it really starts at the top with Mr. (Arthur) Blank, what he’s about and what he stands for.”

Simon also credits the bond between Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn for creating a culture – the Brotherhood – that’s truly unique.

“DQ is, you know, he’s a special guy, he really is,” Simon said. “Anybody that’s been around him for any amount of time can see that and I think his interpersonal style has a way of resonating with today’s players – and it really has a way of resonating with our players. So, there’s a special bond and a special connection there.

“They’re living it – that’s why I think it’s really come to life,” Simon said.

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