Discipline and commitment lead Henry Award winner Shayne Simon
By Joseph Santoliquito
There’s a little story about Shayne Simon that seems destined to resonate through the halls of St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) for years to come. And it’s nothing the exceptional 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker bound for Notre Dame did on a football field or basketball court. Simon will surely be remembered for his many exploits in a Marauders’ jersey.
Though one of legendary Prep coach Rich Hansen’s fondest memories of Simon will always be the selfless act Simon performed early this year. It speaks volumes of Simon’s character, his loyalty and his unselfishness when it comes to putting his team and teammates before himself.
Simon could have played it cushy and slept in on an early-January Sunday morning when his high school basketball team was about to play a game about 1,800 miles north later that afternoon—and no one would have said anything. Simon, a four-year starter on the hoops squad, just finished playing every defensive snap in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, in San Antonio’s Alamodome on Saturday, January 6.
So naturally, it was assumed Simon wouldn’t make it to the Marauders’ showcase basketball game against St. Joseph of Montvale on Sunday.
Simon flew into Newark, N.J., made it to the game on time, held the opposition’s top scorer to single digits and helped St. Peter’s Prep win, 51-44.
It’s those unmeasurable that make Simon the player he is—and a leading reason why the St. Peter’s Prep senior is the Maxwell Club’s 2017 Henry Award winner.
“Shayne didn’t come off the field in the all-star game, goes back to the hotel, gets to sleep early to get on a 5:30 flight, lands in Jersey, makes it to the basketball game, and I saw him there, just shook my head and thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Hansen recalled upon seeing Simon that Sunday afternoon. “Shayne Ds up their best player and holds him to single digits—and we win a big game.
“There’s nothing more you can say about a person’s character than that. That’s really Shayne. He didn’t have to do what he did. Yet, he did it. He could have not even thought about going to that basketball game and no one would have given it a blink. He didn’t even have to play for the basketball team this season. He did.
“That’s Shayne Simon. The work ethic in the classroom, the work ethic on the field, the work ethic as a person, doing the right thing, saying the right thing, that’s Shayne Simon. He’s about high integrity, high character, there are no corners to cut. It’s the way Shayne functions and does business.”
This past season, Simon, who carries a 4.0 GPA and is projected to be a linebacker at Notre Dame, had 55 tackles, 46 solos, and made an amazing 15 tackles for losses. He was a prime reason the Marauders finished 9-3 overall.
Simon grew up a New York Giants’ fan watching the games as a kid on Sunday afternoons with his head on his dad’s belly. He was a quarterback growing up and envisioned himself being the next Cam Newton. When he arrived at St. Peter’s Prep, he played quarterback his freshman year and was moved to starting safety on the varsity his sophomore year.
“I really enjoyed playing quarterback and this was a way to get on the field and the last two years I was a linebacker and wide receiver,” Simon said. “I wouldn’t say I moved into a strict box linebacker position. I got to play rover and covered the slot receiver and tight end. For me, it helped being versatile to be able to do a lot of things.
“My coaches trusted me with a good number of things. They put me in good situations to help the team, and showed a lot of trust in me. We spoke a lot, and did a lot of film work. I never did my own thing. I was never allowed to freelance. We worked off a set structure and I was allowed to do a lot of things within the defense. Watching the film and being a student of the game makes the game simpler. It reaches a point where you know what will happen and you react to that.”
Part of Simon’s devote discipline came every day in the morning commute to St. Peter’s Prep and in leaving every day. His arduous day routinely begins at 5:30 each weekend morning, getting a train to school. Often times, because he was playing football during the fall, and basketball in the winter months, after-school practice meant he wouldn’t arrive home until around 7 at night.
The days ran into each other. Catching a few winks on the train caused him to miss his stop coming home a few times.
Simon maintains a 4.0 GPA. He does it academically demanding St. Peter’s Prep. He’s one of the nation’s best high school football players and is an important member of the Marauders’ basketball team. He still maintains a high level in everything he does, despite the grind. It’s a daily character-building exercise that can challenge anyone. Simon never showed any signs of quit. He never complained. It’s why he was able to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, travel across the country—and still make it to his basketball game the next day.
It says he’s willing to push himself to the envelope.
“I love St. Peter’s and the opportunity the school has given me,” Simon said. “It is a grind. It’s happened a few times when I fell asleep on the train coming home and missed my stop. I’ve enjoyed my time at St. Peter’s and it’s been important to me to be the best person I can be. There is a price you pay for valuable things—and there is a price you have to pay for it, I know.
“But I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t regret anything. I’m getting a great education at Prep, and it’s led to greater opportunities ahead at a great school like Notre Dame. I also know the sacrifices I made are outdone by the sacrifices the people around me. My father (Mike) and mother (Amy) made a ton of sacrifices in getting me a better education. My coaches at school spent the time teaching us the game so we could be successful and go further. My teachers at Prep care about the students there.
“You learn gratitude. You put your head down and get to work. Has been easy, no it hasn’t been easy. But it’s something I love to do. I couldn’t quit on my guys on the basketball team.”
There was no way Simon was going to miss that game.
Winner: Jim Henry Award – St. Peter’s Prep High School