Ohio State football: Simon, Miller sweep top Big Ten awards
Defensive end, quarterback named players of year, but Meyer not top coach
Penn State’s Bill O'Brien was named conference coach of the year.
John Simon said he “dealt with the demons” of not being able to play in his final college football game on Saturday against Michigan, and the Ohio State senior’s fortunes took a decided upturn since.
Last night, he was named the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year after serving for 11 games as the wheel horse of the Buckeyes’ defensive line. His teammate, sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, was named the conference offensive player of the year.
The two reaped the rewards of being on a team that, though banned from the postseason by the NCAA, finished 12-0 and is ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll.
“It definitely means a lot, but those awards are team awards,” Simon said, referencing the fact that he was named consensus all-Big Ten and the defensive lineman of the year on Monday. “I wouldn’t have been able to make some of the plays I did if it wasn’t for great coverage, other guys taking up blocks up front. So I praise those guys for that. The team, that’s what it’s all about.”
Simon became the first Buckeyes player since James Laurinaitis in 2007 and ’08 to win the Nagurski-Woodson Award as the league’s defensive player of the year.
Miller is the first Buckeye to be named the offensive player of the year, now known as the Graham-George Award, since quarterback Troy Smith in 2006, on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. On Monday night, Miller was named the league’s outstanding quarterback, as well as being named first-team all-conference by the media and second team by coaches.
“It’s one step closer to all the goals I want to reach playing football,” said Miller, whose 3,310 total yards this season were an Ohio State record. “And there are a lot more things I still have to work at.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer agreed.
“Winning this award is quite an achievement for this young man because he can still get better,” Meyer said. “I am happy for him and very proud. This is a terrific honor for a Buckeye to receive.”
Meyer, after leading OSU to the sixth undefeated, untied season in school history in his first year, had a shot at the two Big Ten coach of the year awards, one voted by the coaches and the other by media. But both awards went to first-year Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
O’Brien was rewarded for providing stability to a program racked by NCAA sanctions that will keep it out of the postseason for four years in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
No OSU coach has won the league’s annual top award since Earle Bruce in 1979. Simon, though, said Meyer “is our coach of the year. He came in and set that foundation for us, and he’s a large part of the reason we were so successful this year.”
Meyer repeatedly has credited the seniors he inherited as being the key to OSU’s resurgence — Simon perhaps most of all.
“He is absolutely one of the finest young men I have had the privilege to coach,” Meyer said. “His determination and effort and selfless approach are second to none. And there is no better player or person to be honored with this player of the year award.”
If only Simon could have played in that final game, but his swollen right knee would not allow it.
“That was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” Simon said. “I was heartbroken. I had to make the decision probably about 15 minutes before kickoff. I was still trying to do anything I could in that room to make it heal. It finally came to the point where I had to say, ‘I can’t do this.’ ”
He then took part in the pregame ceremony honoring the seniors, limping down the field and keeping his emotions in check.
“I dealt with the demons in the locker room,” Simon said. “My teammates picked me up, and I really relied on them to help me get through that game. And those guys went out there and played lights out and got us the win, which made it all worthwhile.”