Arizona State hires former NFL veteran John Simon as running backs coach

Photo: UPI

Photo: UPI

BY: ED COLE

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona State football program has a brand new running backs coach in former NFL veteran John Simon.

Simon – a former motivational speaker, high school coach and administrator – spent the previous three seasons at Southern Mississippi before he was hired as the wide receivers coach at Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 5.

“John (Simon) has a familiarity with our system, knows what it takes to be successful, and has learned from the best coaches in our business, including Joe Gibbs, Steve Spurrier, Jeff Fisher, Hue Jackson, and Gary Crowton,” Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham said. “With his background as a high school coach and administrator, John understands the importance of developing the character of our young men, not only their athletic ability, and has shown a dedication to improving the communities around him.”

Simon coached two 1,000-yard rushers at Southern Miss in 2015 in Jalen Richard and Ito Smith, who combined for over 3,000 total yards, including 2,200 yards rushing and 29 total touchdowns. Richard and Smith earned Conference USA first and second team honors, respectively.

With Simon, the Golden Eagles were one of five teams in the Football Bowl Division to have two running backs gain at least 1,000 yards on the ground.

“I’m excited to be a part of the history and the culture here,” Simon said. “What coach (Todd) Graham stands for and what he has accomplished here in four years is what I want to be a part of. Coach Graham believes in the complete student-athlete and that is what I believe in, both on and off the field. He believes in building relationships with recruits, parents and student-athletes. This is a natural fit for me, especially to be coaching running backs. I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Last season, Simon was part of a Southern Miss coaching staff that helped their team break five major offensive single-season school records, and earn a 10-win season that included a Conference USA West Division title and a win over the University of Washington in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Simon spent three seasons in the National Football League: 2002 with the Tennessee Titans and 2003-04 with the Washington Redskins.

Once Simon was done with his professional career, he turned to motivational speaking. His speeches were geared toward at-risk youth through his non-profit organization I.M.A.G.E., which focused on improving minority areas.

Before going to Southern Miss, Simon spent five years (2008-12) as a position coach, coordinator, head coach and athletics director at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Dallas.

Simon’s coaching career began there in 2008. He was the wide receivers coach, before becoming the defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2009. Simon became the special teams coordinator, secondary coach and assistant athletics director in 2010, and he was the interim head coach and athletics director the following season. In 2012, Simon became the school’s athletic director.

Simon gained more than 4,800 all-purpose yards and he caught a pass in a then-NCAA record 36 straight games as a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech University from 1998-2001. He helped the Bulldogs get the program’s first Western Athletic Conference Championship and bowl appearance in 11 years as a senior in 2001.

In other news, the team announced that assistant coach DelVaughn Alexander will coach tight ends, and Josh Martin will serve as a senior analyst.