Today marks three weeks until our countdown reaches kickoff, where the ’Noles will take the field for the 2019 season against Boise State. Just think: after today you only have to get through two more Saturday’s until you get to watch FSU football. As if that wasn’t enough, two weeks from today one of Florida State’s rivals is guaranteed to start 0-1, and that my friends is a wonderful feeling. The air itself begins to feel alive, buzzing with electricity.
Much like this time of the year, the first half of Corey Simon’s Seminole career was marked by little more than expectations. A product of Boynton Beach, Florida, Simon attended Ely High School in Pompano Beach. He was the Miami Herald’s defensive player of the year in Florida as a high school senior, and named to USA Today’s All-USA high school squad. If you’re growing up in Florida during the greatest dynasty run in college football history, where else would you go but Florida State?
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Simon’s early career. He redshirted his freshman year in 1995. In 1996 he appeared in just one game, against Duke, recording three tackles, again largely sidelined due to injury. In 1997, as a redshirt sophomore, Simon began to contribute. He played in nine games, but did not start any. For a recruit of his caliber, even at a school like Florida State, one would be forgiven for believing there was a chance that Simon would not live up to his potential. But the flashes were there. Even though he only recorded twelve total tackles in ‘97, he had seven for a loss, along with two sacks.
As it turned out, it would just be foreshadowing.
It’s hard to describe Simon’s redshirt junior season in 1998 as anything other than it all clicking together. He collected 65 tackles, most importantly hoarding a whopping 16 tackles for a loss, along with five sacks. Football News named Simon a 2nd team All-American, while he was named a 1st team All-American by no less than the Associated Press. He was also awarded the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award, given annually to the conference’s “most courageous” player.
Oh, and he played nose tackle, not three-tech. As in, his main responsibility was to eat up blocks.
It’s weird, but strangely enough being a 1st team All-American isn’t how Simon cemented his legacy at FSU. To be fair, you have to do a little bit better than that. And he did, in 1999, building on top of his foundational 1998 campaign.
As a redshirt senior, Simon was the leader of a defense that would go on to help secure an undefeated season and the country’s first wire-to-wire team, culminating in FSU’s second national championship. Such an accomplishment would require Simon to be one of the best defensive tackles in all of college football. Simon was up to the challenge.
I feel compelled to point out that in the clip above Simon is the second defensive lineman from the top of the screen. Yet he still makes a crucial play all the way in the middle of the field back in the end zone. In a hold-your-breath moment. In the national championship.
On the season Simon racked up 84 tackles, including an absolutely extraterrestrial 21 for a loss that lead the ACC, with another four sacks. He was also a finalist for both the Lombardi and Outland Trophies.
Simon was predictably named a consensus All-American, a 1st teamer by no less than seven different publications. He finished with 193 total tackles, including 44 for a loss, with eleven total sacks and three forced fumbles. The 44 tackles for loss tied the school career record set by the legendary Ron Simmons.
But it wasn’t just the tackles that makes Simon reach such lofty status in our top 100 countdown. It was everything he did that didn’t count on the score sheet. Things like eating up blockers, allowing guys like Tommy Polley and Jamal Reynolds to feast. Guys that were 97th and 27th in our countdown, respectively.
With nothing left to accomplish at the collegiate level — it being just a coincidence that his college eligibility was exhausted — Simon entered the NFL’s 2000 Draft. He was selected sixth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. He would go on to have a lengthy and productive eight-year professional career spanning 256 tackles, 32 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and All-Rookie and Pro Bowl nods before injuries ended his career.