B.C. Lions star Geroy Simon 'deserves' another year here: Milt Stegall
Retired CFL receiver, TV analyst says if Leos don't want him, 'three or four other teams will'
“Jerry would like to make 2005 his last year in the NFL. Any takers?? Please call if you think there might be a fit!”
Jim Steiner, the agent for Jerry Rice, faxed a plea to NFL teams on behalf of his client, asking them if they’d be interested in signing the greatest receiver in pro football history for one final, farewell season.
Some people were concerned that Rice was tarnishing his legacy by reaching out, cap in hand, like Daniel Day Lewis answering a casting call for a bit part. But to others, it was proof of Rice’s unadulterated love of the game, his legacy be damned.
Now, perhaps, Geroy Simon of the B.C. Lions has come to a similar juncture in his career. Although the CFL’s all-time reception yards leader might regard his 2012 season (54 catches, 700 yards, two TDs) as an anomaly, general manager Wally Buono is wrestling with the knowledge that Simon has reached his best-before date. How far past it he has gone is the burning question.
"Should he stay or should I make him go?"
If Buono should need any advice, Milt Stegall is here to provide it. One more year: Stegall feels a player of Simon’s stature is owed that much for all that he’s meant and accomplished for the Lions organization.
“If the Lions don’t want him, I can tell you that three or four other teams will,” Stegall said. “Give him the respect and the credit that he’s earned. I understand this is a business, and you never get to go out on your own terms. But, without a doubt, that’s something you should do for a player like Geroy. Besides, he’s not the type of person to milk this for years and years. But it’s just like Geroy not to feel his time is up yet.”
Simon turns 38 next September, a birthday that Stegall reached in January of 2008 before he went on to play one final, injury-affected season with the Blue Bombers. That farewell season was not Stegall at his best. Rushing his return from knee surgery, he played only 12 games, recording 29 catches for 458 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, he left the game with the most touchdowns in CFL history (147), the most touchdowns in a single season (23), the most yards per catch in a single season (26.5) and the most receiving yards in a CFL career (15,153). Yes, Stegall was that good.
Not only was he certifiably the greatest receiver in CFL history, but he was and remains a workout freak. At 42, Stegall is so lean and chiseled that his “Turtle Man” nickname (owing to washboard abs that resemble a turtle’s shell) still fits.
“As far as conditioning goes, I definitely could do that (play),” Stegall said. “I still work out with Korey Banks and Dante Marsh (in Atlanta) and they know I can run with them. The running and cutting I do on a daily basis. But the daily continuous pounding of football . . . I don’t know if I could do that. Geroy keeps his body in great shape, too. But the wear and tear of football . . . you can see those effects slowly coming into his game. He went through two hamstring injuries this season. Without a doubt, he must be thinking about it coming to the end. You try not to think about it, but it’s difficult not to. For me, my body was saying, ‘I can’t go through this again.’ I didn’t want a life after football when I was constantly in pain. I wanted to be able to get out of bed in the morning, and run around with my kids. I never won the Grey Cup, but I left satisfied that I did all that I could do.”
Simon has 62 100-yard receiving games in his career, trailing only Allen Pitts (64) on the all-time list. But only two of those century mark games came in the 2012 season -- the first, on June 30, when Stegall was at BC Place Stadium to see Simon break his career receiving yards record with five catches and 105 yards against the Blue Bombers. A 56-yard reception in that game proved to be Simon’s longest of the season.
“Those weren’t typical Geroy-type numbers, and you know how Wally operates,” Stegall said. “He doesn’t go with older players, especially ones who aren’t producing. It’s a difficult situation. Wally had no problem letting Allen Pitts go (in Calgary). But if it weren’t for his injuries, I think Geroy would have been among the top seven or eight receivers in the league. Let’s see what happens next year. I think Wally at least owes him that much.”
Stegall, however, doesn’t hold out the same hope for veteran receiver Arland Bruce remaining in a Lions jersey. Two years younger than Simon, Bruce suffered a concussion Sept. 29 against Saskatchewan and didn’t dress again until the West Division final, Nov. 18. His injury occurred while he leapt in the air to contest a pass, while warding off a defender, in a manner not conducive to self-preservation.
“I’d very surprised if both of them (Simon and Bruce) are back,” Stegall said. “Arland’s a different type, a more physical receiver than Geroy, and a guy who’s not afraid to go across the middle and make those big catches. But the more pounding you take, the more years you add to your football age. You start aging in dog years.”
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