Ring of Honor Feature: Mark Simoneau

By Megan Wilson
Sports Information Student Assistant

Mark Simoneau, whose hometown of Smith Center, Kan., is less than 15 miles from the geographic center of the United States, grew up in the Heartland and has carried the lessons he learned there with him throughout his career.

Currently a member of the New Orleans Saints, Simoneau was a four-year starter and three-time team captain for the Wildcats from 1996-99. During his career, the Wildcats made four bowl appearances, including the Fiesta Bowl in 1997, made their first-ever appearance in the Big 12 Championship game in 1998 and climbed all the way to No. 1 in the national rankings that same season. Simoneau was named to the first team All-Big 12 three times and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the best linebacker in the country, during his senior season in 1999. But his successes are not what those who know Simoneau remember most about him. They instead remember his dedication, commitment and incredible work ethic.

“You can talk about what a great player he is, but his legacy, in my mind and I think in the minds of anyone who was here when he was here, is one of all those intrinsic values his capacity for hard work and doing things the right way,” said Bill Snyder. “In his time at K-State he was everything we want our student-athletes to be. He was an excellent person, an excellent student and an excellent player.”}

Simoneau began his career playing for the Smith Center Redmen, one of the most dominating football programs in Kansas. As a senior running back and linebacker for the Redmen, he earned honorable mention USA Today All-American honors. 

“He was a committed and dedicated athlete,” said Roger Barta, head football coach at Smith Center. “His work ethic was unbelievable in the weightroom. We had never had anyone who worked so hard. That’s what we always remember about him, how hard he worked.”

At the end of his K-State career, Simoneau had left his mark on the record books and on the Wildcat program. He ranks third in total tackles for a career and tops the list for both single-game and career unassisted tackles. He led K-State in tackles during 1998 and 1999 seasons, led the team in sacks in 1999 and is tied for third on the career fumble recoveries list. While the numbers speak to his skills on the gridiron, good luck getting him to talk about any of those things himself.

When asked what he was most proud of in his career, Simoneau didn’t mention the All-American or All-Big 12 honors or any of the records he holds.

Instead he said, “Beating Nebraska for the first time is definitely one of the things (I’m most proud of). There are a lot of things in my career I’m proud of the Fiesta Bowl tripwas great and my senior year we finished in the top 10 and won our bowl game against Washington. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be beating Nebraska. We had had a lot of teams who had been competitive and knocking on the door against them and we were finally able to get it done.”

In addition to his tremendous work ethic, his coaches also remember him for his leadership on and off the field, his coachability, and his desire to be the best he could be.

“He was always open to coaching, he did everything you asked him and more, and he was just a great model for our other athletes,” Snyder said. “He worked as hard as anyone we ever had in our program.”

Simoneau’s abilities on the football field have carried him from the small town of Smith Center to the city of New Orleans, from playing under the Friday night lights to Saturday afternoon showdowns to Sundays in the Superdome. The progression in his career has surpassed anything he had ever planned on.

“I didn’t have any expectations as far as playing in the NFL,” Simoneau said. “I wanted to get a scholarship to play football and I wanted to play at K-State.”

Planned or not, Simoneau’s success has served as an example for those wishing to follow in his footsteps.

“He’s an inspiration to our kids about what you can accomplish if you’re willing to work hard at it,” Barta said. “I have to step back and remember that some of the kids who play for us now weren’t even born yet when Mark was here, but we talk about him so much and use him as an example that they feel pretty close to him. His example really motivates our kids.”

Beyond the records, the honors and the numbers is a true picture of who Simoneau is. A committed, dedicated and hardworking individual who gives back to the community, who shares with kids the lessons he has learned and passes on the values he was taught. In spite of the many changes he has experienced throughout his football career, some things about him never change.

“What I’m so proud of is the fact that he’s managed to have a 10-year career in the NFL and has not changed as a person and that’s a real tribute to who you are,” Snyder said. “The change in lifestyle from college to becoming a professional athlete is a big one. It changes a lot of people, but it didn’t change Mark Simoneau. He’s still the same Smith Center guy with all the same Midwestern values in place.”

Both coaches agree that Simoneau is deserving of a place on the Ring of Honor, not only for his work on the field but also for the person he is outside of football. Both coaches described him as a special player and a special person. If you ask Simoneau about it, though, he chooses to respectfully disagree, and instead points to the players he played with.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Simoneau said. “It’s crazy to think that this many years have passed since I was in school, and they went really fast. I played with a lot of great players and a lot of guys who really deserve this honor as well.”

Humility, a tremendous work ethic, dedication and commitment all describe Simoneau as a player and a person. And perhaps his greatest characteristic is his incredible heart. In combination with those traits, his ability on the football field helped him live his dream of playing for K-State. The passion Simoneau displayed on the field as a Wildcat still echoes in his voice when he talks about his time at K-State.

“I had a great time and I loved K-State.  It was a great time to be there, to play for Coach Snyder, and I’m just glad that I got to be a part of it.”

Being a part of something has always been what Simoneau was about. And now he becomes a part of something new when he joins K-State’s Ring of Honor and marks another milestone in a storied career.