Geroy Simon’s (CCJS ’14) football career is marked by both perseverance and several all-time records. After playing for Maryland from 1993 to 1996, he holds records for the number of receptions in a single season and a single game (77 and 16, respectively), and is second in career receptions with 185. After 15 seasons with the Canadian Football League, Simon is its all-time career leader in receiving yards with 16,352, and first in pass receptions with 1,029. He was selected as a CFL All-Star six times and won the Grey Cup—the championship game of the CFL—three times.

The same work ethic and determination that made Simon a success on the field also translates into his personal life. In the middle of an illustrious 15-year career, Simon returned to the University of Maryland for some unfinished business: namely, his degree in criminology and criminal justice. The motivation for finishing his degree came from people near and dear to Simon’s heart: his family.

When Simon left UMD to pursue a career in professional sports, he promised his mom that he would get his degree. He also consistently emphasizes the importance of education to his three children, so finishing the degree was his way of “leading by example for my kids and the people who look up to me.” A man of his word, Simon graduated with a B.A. in May 2014, nearly two decades after leaving Maryland.

Returning to finish his degree was not without its challenges, the biggest of which was leaving his family in British Columbia. The career of a professional football player comes with a lot of traveling, and Simon says it was tough “knowing I would have to spend another month away from my family.” However, education was very important to Simon, so he registered for classes again.

Simon offers the same advice to former students who are considering returning to finish their degree later in life: the first step is often the hardest, but if you make education a priority and are diligent about your studies and minimizing distractions, it becomes an easier process. Simon said that education did not come easy to him initially, but his trademark perseverance and hard work that had become habits outside of the classroom led to success in academics as well. He said Maryland was also great in giving him opportunities to take online classes to minimize the time away from home.

Simon was first drawn to UMD because of its winning combination of academics and athletics. While Simon was training and planning to be a professional athlete, he “never knew what would happen,” and had back-up plans of being in the FBI or Secret Service.   

Plus, he knew a sound investment when he saw one—Maryland's Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, housed in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS), is ranked first in the nation.

“I knew it was a great fit both on and off the field,” he said.

Simon’s favorite memories of his time at Maryland include scoring his first touchdown in Byrd Stadium, playing against Florida State, and taking every chance to rub Testudo’s nose. His Maryland pride continues today, as he remains actively connected to Maryland football through social media and relationships with former teammates, ones that he calls “some of the best and most important relationships I’ve made in my life.”

The importance of team camaraderie is still evident in Simon’s life today. While he is proud of his individual records and accomplishments, Simon says that “winning championships with my teammates is the most important” memory from his football career.

After retiring from the CFL after the 2013 season, Simon returned to football in a business and player development role, first with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then with his hometown BC Lions, where he spent 12 seasons as a player. Simon hopes to give back to young players by providing an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

“If someone hadn’t given me a chance, I don’t know where I would be. They stuck their neck out and really believed in me, and sometimes all people need is a chance to show what they’re capable of,” Simon said.

He encourages students interested in pursuing a career in sports or sports management to maximize their potential and never take their talent or opportunities for granted. “There are plenty of talented people who have potential to do great things but don’t achieve them because they don’t put in the time,” he said.

While Simon keeps a busy schedule with work and his family, he still finds time to give back to his community. Simon founded the Huddle Up Foundation with a goal of fostering a commitment to philanthropy among elite athletes in North America. The Foundation’s various campaigns all focus in empowering and improving the lives of kids through partnerships with athletes and businesses. Simon’s trademark campaign, Geroy’s Coats 4 Kids, places warm winter clothing on deserving kids across the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Simon’s community outreach echoes BSOS’ mission to Be the Solution to the world’s great challenges. “You never know the impact you can have on a person, place or thing. If you can make even a small difference it will go a long way,” he said.

Geroy Simon headshot