SE: Hard Work and Discipline Put Simoneau in Hall

Mark Simoneau (above) and Kendra Wecker are members of the 2011 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction class.

Oct. 4, 2011

Click here to subscribe to K-State Sports Extra

Editor’s Note: Former Kansas State student-athletes Kendra Wecker and Mark Simoneau were inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. Last Friday we featured Wecker, and today we salute Simoneau.

By Mark Janssen

Mark Simoneau says the last few weeks have been “… a time for reflecting.”

All the times that his dad would get home from work “… and he would throw the ball with me.”

All the times that he looked up to big brothers Tim and Jeff “… and how they were such an influence to my career and gave me something to shoot for because they were such great athletes.”

And, all the times playing football in his backyard “… in my Huffy uniform with that plastic helmet, and tiny shoulder pads that I would pull a t-shirt over. I know I pretended to be Walter Payton. I’m sure we didn’t tackle properly, but it was just trying to get the guy down on the ground.”

In time, Simoneau would learn the proper technique of tackling at Smith Center High School, and then on to Kansas State, and then through an 11-year National Football League career with Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Kansas City.

Packaged together, Simoneau, along with former Wildcat Kendra Wecker, earned recognition by being inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies staged in Wichita this past Sunday.

“It’s an honor that is hard to describe,” said the 34-year-old Simoneau. “It’s important to me, my family, and will be a place where I’ll be able to take my kids because my name will be there.”

“A lot of great memories have flashed through my mind during the last few weeks,” said Simoneau, who now lives in Kansas City where he owns “Simoneau Sports Performance.” “Most were good moments, but there were also the bad, but all a part of the journey.”

Starting with his father, Simoneau said, “He didn’t necessarily light the fire for sports with me, but he just did all the supportive things. He played catch with me, built me a long jump pit, and was just always there for support.”

Simoneau played a bit of basketball, and did a little pitching for the American Legion baseball team, but mainly he played football and competed in track.

He remembers throwing the shot out of bounds on three straight attempts at the state track meet as a junior – “That was one of those bad moments.” – but followed that by winning the title as a senior, plus was second in the 100-meters in a rare double.

But Simoneau’s real specialty was being a rib-rattling tackler as a linebacker, and as a running back who averaged over 10 yards per carry in rushing for 2,252 yards as a senior.

“Coach (Roger) Barta was a lot like coach (Bill) Snyder,” said Simoneau of his Smith Center High School coach. “He was all about preparation and hard work. When you went through his program, you were preparing for that next level. You had proper technique and you were mentally tough. There weren’t many high schools as structured as Smith Center.”

At the time, Simoneau could squat with 585 pounds and bench press 330 pounds, but still, “I really wasn’t recruited that heavily. When K-State offered, I said, ‘Yes,’ but that was really the only offer I had.”

Simoneau remembers following the Wildcats from afar, but said, “I wasn’t that huge of a K-State fan, but I always liked K-State over KU.”

With the Wildcats from 1996-1999, K-State won 42 games, which included Big 12 North championships in 1998 and 1999, and invitations to four bowl games.

A two-time All-American, three-time All-Big 12 performer and Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, Simoneau ended his career with 400 tackles, which included 48 for negative yards, which ranks third-most in K-State history.

Simoneau points to the win over Nebraska in 1998, the victory over Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl, and wins over Texas and Kansas as highlights. Then he adds that the triple-overtime loss to Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 title game was the lowest of lows.

“I can’t imagine a greater sports pain than that one,” said Simoneau.

Simoneau was drafted by Atlanta in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He would play 124 games with 68 of those being starts. In his 11 seasons, which included seven playoff games, he posted 525 tackles. Twice – with Philadelphia and New Orleans – he was a member of Super Bowl teams.

Like Barta prepared him for K-State, Simoneau credits Snyder for making him NFL-ready.

“It all goes back to the amount of work he demanded and the discipline in the program. He knew how to prepare you to play. The focus was the same for every game. You prepared for every team, good and bad, the same way,” said Simoneau. “A lot of guys didn’t have that background and were out of the league before they learned how to prepare and how to compete.”

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Director of Athletics Communications/SID Kenny Lannou. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.