For the love of the game
You can call him Harry. You can call him Pierre. You can just call him "12." But you can’t call him lazy.
Senior cornerback Harry "Pierre" Simon has been working hard since the day he walked on to the UH football team three years ago.
"I always say a walk-on is someone who really loves the game, especially the ones that stick through it," Simon said.
"Very few walk-ons actually make it to their senior year. It was a tough road. You still have to pay for college, but you have to do the same things the scholarship players do."
In 2005, the year after he walked on, he practiced and traveled with the team, but didn’t play in a game. In 2006 he was the backup corner.
His perseverance finally paid off when he earned a scholarship to play for Houston this season.
On Sept. 1, Simon came onto the football field as a team captain for his first game as a starter in Houston’s season-opener at Oregon.
"The first game I started defense – it was probably the best feeling ever. We were in front of a big crowd, in front of Oregon, my dad was there," Simon said. "Knowing I accomplished what I originally set out to accomplish – it was the best feeling."
Although it may seem like Simon’s journey started three years ago, it actually began long before that.
When Simon played football for his high school in Stockbridge, Ga., he learned the nuances of each position and developed a love for the game.
"In high school, you play every position. I played receiver, corner, a little tailback, of course all the special teams," he said.
Simon played high school ball in Georgia for two years before his parents’ jobs relocated the family to Texas.
He thought that would be the end of his football playing days, but discovered that he couldn’t just watch from the sidelines.
"When I finished high school I figured that I’d hang up my cleats," Simon said. "I sat out my freshman year (of college), and I realized it was impossible for me to hang up my cleats, so I had to come out and play more."
Simon said his family has encouraged him every step of the way in his challenging journey from walk-on to starter.
His father has been to all but one game for the last three years.
"My dad is the strongest part of my support network. My mom doesn’t understand football at all, but she tries," Simon said.
His family members aren’t the only ones who encourage him.
Simon’s perseverance and dedication to the sport has brought him the admiration of his coaches and teammates as well.
"We call the skinny guys ‘six packs,’ but he’s one of the few six packs we’ll allow to come hang out with the offensive line without getting picked on too much," senior offensive lineman Dustin Dickinson said. "He may be a six pack, but he’s a fat guy at heart. He’s a good guy."
Head coach Art Briles agrees that Simon has bonded with and had a positive effect on every member of the team.
"He’s a great teammate. He’s a guy that does a great job of blending in with the whole team – offense, defense, special teams," he said. "He’s a person that’s really good for everybody on the team."
Simon’s future is uncertain; he wants to play football for as long as he can, but he is also prepared to use the degrees he is earning in finance and marketing.
"You apply football, all the lessons that you learn, to your life," Simon said. "I’ll be a businessman, but I’ll still be at work checking my Palm Pilot, checking scores and things like that. I may be 60 years old, coaching little league or something, just for the love of the game."