If the Houston Texans had beaten the New England Patriots and then won the AFC Championship game, they would be playing in the Super Bowl at their own NRG Stadium. This would have been an unparalleled highlight in John Simon’s career, but the Patriots were too much to handle for the Texans. As a result, the Tom Brady-led squad will be playing against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston for the NFL’s top prize.
This is disappointing to Simon, a fourth-year linebacker out of Ohio State, but not enough to dishearten him. The forthcoming delivery of his first child more than makes up for any professional setbacks. Simon and his wife have been on a seemingly nonstop birth-preparation process that is grounded in Catholic teaching.
In between trips to the store for diapers, clothes and blankets, Simon spoke of fatherhood and the upcoming Super Bowl in Houston.
The Texans lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs this year as well as in the regular season, so you know them up close. What do the Falcons have to do to beat them?
The Patriots are a very well-rounded team. Not many teams have been able to beat them throughout the years, especially the last 17. The Falcons would have to play a sound game, control the football and limit turnovers in order to come out with a victory.
I feel this Super Bowl has potential to be a great game. Both quarterbacks —Tom Brady and Matt Ryan — are playing at a high level, as they always do. Even though both defenses have been playing well, I can see it becoming a high-scoring game.
You’d like to make the Super Bowl any year, but was it tougher to miss out this year, since it will take place in Houston?
Oh, of course! Playing in the Super Bowl in our own city would have been an amazing experience, especially since our fans are so supportive. We had a packed house for every home game this year, and it would have capped off everything so well to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. We made the playoffs and beat the Raiders in the wild-card round, but, unfortunately, we were not able to get the job done in the divisional round against the Patriots.
Last time we spoke, you mentioned false perceptions of you in the media when you were at Ohio State. Has your college experience helped you to navigate the waters of pro sports media well?
Yes, through college my teammates and I had to endure adversity. What I believe the experience taught me was that you can’t control everything. Even though I had done nothing even remotely wrong, my name was being thrown out as someone who had. It was definitely a difficult time.
I just kept faith and knew that everything happened for a reason, because God does nothing randomly. In the end, I learned that you can only control yourself, not what other people do or what they say or think about you. You can’t stress about things that aren’t in your power. I have carried that lesson with me throughout the years, and it truly makes for a happier and healthier lifestyle than being upset over things beyond my reach.
Have you found prayer to be especially important with a high-profile job?
I have found prayer to be important my whole life. Whether growing up, in college, or in the NFL, prayer has helped to keep me grounded and focused on what’s important. When I pray I always try have honest and open communication with God. When I was younger, I would more often than not recite scripted prayers.
These types of prayers have a place, especially in public worship, but as I got older, I felt that I was just going through the motions outside of Mass and not actually communicating with the Lord as he intended. So rather than reciting prayers that I had been taught, I began to speak to him just as I would talk to someone in my everyday life. Once I did that, I felt that my relationship with him began to grow and strengthen.
Last time we spoke, you were engaged. You have since gotten married?
I have gotten married to Brittany, and we are actually expecting our first child within the next week or so. I couldn’t be more excited to be a father! It’s been a nonstop process of preparation for the birth of our baby, and the morals and teachings of Catholicism have given us a blueprint on how we want to raise [him or her].
Have you read any good Catholic books recently?
I try to read Scripture every day and break it down, with the help of prayer, into what I believe it is saying. I feel that doing this enhances my connection with the Lord, because he wants to reach us personally, and not just on an academic level. Knowing something at a distance can be fine for certain topics, but when it comes to faith, that has to be taken hold of and interiorized.
I feel that the Lord has blessed me in so many ways, and I try to show the world that having a relationship with the Lord can make a monumental difference in your life. He has gotten me through the good and the bad. He is always there for me, if I ever need someone to talk to or someone to seek advice from. He has been the rock in my life and has taught me how to become a husband and now a father, which I praise and thank him for.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book, Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015),
contains numerous Catholic sports
interviews, most of which
have appeared in the Register.