As much as BC Lions receiver Geroy Simon didn’t want it to be all about him, the Lions opening season game was a night for Superman.
With only 67 yards between Simon, a perennial CFL All-Star and the surpassing of the CFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards, Milt Stegall (15,153) this was going to be an evening to remember.
With the unusual suspects in the house, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohen, TSN Analyst and the retired Bomber receiver Milt Stegall as well as a 30-plus entourage of Geroy Simon’s family from all over the continental US, something special was about to happen. The catch? Well, no one really knew when the history-making moment would happen, creating the kind of suspense you pay for when you head to the theatre for a two hour movie.
Geroy’s perseverance throughout his fourteen seasons set the stage for this amazing feat of excellence. The two-time Grey Cup Champion has 98 career receiving TD’s, 60 career 100+ yard performances and nine 1000+ yard seasons. By clocking in the remaining yards Simon surpasses one of his first mentors and teammate in the league, Milt Stegall.
In keeping with the suspense-filled plot, Simon would not be catching a beautifully aired out ball in the first quarter to capture this milestone. Rather, after a full second quarter and missing three chances to set the record in the third, fans were kept on edge until the 10:03 mark of the fourth when Simon caught a 56-yard perfect pass from Travis Lulay. Bomber Defensive Back Johnny Sears, tumbled over Simon on the Winnipeg 23-yard line denying Geroy the end zone ‘icing on the cake’.
This is Simon’s Superman movie.
The game stopped and Simon’s teammates rushed over to Geroy who was standing in his history-making spot. Fans rose to their feet in a stadium wide standing ovation to honor one of the league’s greatest players. Simon’s oldest son, 18-year old Gervon (who is heading to play Quarterback for West Point College) and his father were on the field for this amazing moment.
“We thought the Grey Cup last year was one of the highlights of our life, but this one beats that,” said Geroy Allen, Geroy’s father .
Then, amidst the chants of ‘Geroy, Geroy, Geroy’, and towel waving, an arm in the crowd points up to the sky.
And then the Superman music started.
It wasn’t a bird or a plane, it was Geroy Simon’s tribute video and history-making catch playing on the centre screen. For that moment, time stood still and we were all transcended to the greatness of this man from Pennsylvania, united and sharing in this one shining moment.
Simon succeeded his mentor, retired Blue Bomber Milt Stegall who was on hand with heartfelt congratulations and who pointed out this well deserved honor to a player who was ‘a one-time practice roster (player) and is now an all time leader in the CFL’.
“I was fortunate to witness it and it’s a great honor,” said Stegall following the game. “Geroy isn’t only a great player, but more importantly a great person and I’m very happy for him.”
Simon who played with Stegall at the start of his CFL career in 1999 expressed his thankfulness and appreciation for the retired Bomber receiver. “Milt’s a person in my life, I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to play with him and be mentored by him.”
Fans remained until the very end as the Lions defeated the Bombers 33-16, marking the first win for newly inducted head coach Mike Benevides.
After a quick post-game address to the players which lasted just over twenty seconds and telling them he will see them tomorrow at 10:00 am, Head Coach Mike Benevides called Geroy into the middle of the room. “Now this, this is all about Geroy,” said Benevides. “What you saw today was history, you were apart of history.”
In perfect Geroy Simon form, he humbly came to the middle of the room and sincerely shared his victory with his teammates. “This is never been about me, it’s never been about 67 yards. This is about the guys in this locker room, the guys that have played in this locker room before,” said an emotional Simon. “It’s about us, it’s about the journey, it’s about 5:01. It’s about winning that Grey Cup again.”
Then the perfect tearjerker ending, “Thank-you. I love you guys like you are my brothers and I appreciate you all.”
Simon’s encore will continue to build and it is doubtful that he will take it all in until his last pass is caught. For this fit and able 36-year old, who refuses to rest on his laurels and continues to improve with age, that moment remains as unclassified information.
Just a note, in the 33-16 Lions win, Simon had five receptions for 105 yards, giving him yet another 100+ yard game for the record books.
The only thing missing from this perfect evening, was a cape for ‘Superman’.
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Behind the scenes Mike Benevides post-game address and Simon’s heartfelt speech