VANCOUVER - In 1993, Dan Dorazio recruited a rail-thin, six-foot, 155-pound receiver from Johnstown, Pa. named Geroy Simon for the Maryland Terrapins.
Now, 20 years later, the B.C. Lions offensive line coach still considers it the greatest catch of his career.As Maryland’s offensive coordinator and recruiter, Dorazio snagged the G-Man for the Terrapins.
And for much of the ensuing three decades, he was been a firsthand witness to Simon’s exploits, both in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Canadian Football League.Dorazio was there when Simon set a Maryland record with 16 catches in a game against Florida State.
He watched him haul in 77 in his sophomore season that bettered the Maryland and ACC record.Dorazio was with him again last year, when Simon took a 56-yard pass from Travis Lulay and broke Milt Stegall’s CFL career record for receiving yards
And, on Thursday, in a Lions locker room overflowing with media, Dorazio stood quietly at the back as Simon, now 37, announced he would no longer be a Lion after 12 seasons packed with derring-do and glory.
"All he ever did was make plays. That's why we recruited him at Maryland," Dorazio said. "He was a playmaker. And that’s all I’ve ever seen him do in the CFL -- make plays. I’ve been so blessed to have had an association with this man for as long as I have. You couldn’t have asked for better player in college. And when I came here (joining Wally Buono’s staff in 2003), I was blessed to be part of his career again.”
Dorazio didn’t have an inkling that Simon’s days in B.C. were numbered based on his limited production last season -- 54 catches, 700 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games. The most telling number was 36, the birthday Simon reached last September, the same age Allen Pitts was in Calgary, when Buono released the CFL’s all-time leading receiver. Pitts was later passed in the record book by Milt Stegall, who has 38 in his final year with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before retiring after the 2008 season.
But Stegall’s game certainly was in decline before he was afforded the rare luxury of choosing when to make his exit from the stage. The Bombers themselves were reluctant to make the call, fearing the wrath of their fan base.
Whether he’s right or wrong, and perhaps because he's done it with other high-profile players before, Lions GM Wally Buono seems prepared to take the heat and trust his instincts, with only small regard to what the media and the chattering classes might think.
“When we released Pitts in Calgary, it was pretty rough,” Dorazio said. “Allen was a big part of what we did. There’s a lot of human emotion involved. Wally will get a lot of blame. Normally (January) is a very quiet time of year (for the coaching staff). This (Simon’s trade) changes that.”
Dorazio said he recognized Simon as “a prize” when he got him to commit to Maryland, and he still feels that way about him as a 37-year-old adult.
“He’s still the same person he was 20 years ago -- high character,” Dorazio said. “We knew he was special when he signed him, and he’s still a special person. He’s never disappointed us. I’m so proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.”
Simon and Dorazio have been part of two Grey Cup championships together in their 10-year professional association with the Lions, during which Simon has made 904 catches for 14,756 yards and 93 touchdowns. firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/sixbeamers
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