Saints wide receiver Matt Simon has come back stronger than ever after being with the team during training camp in 2009. The 6-1, 200 pound receiver was a member of the practice squad as the start of the 2009 season before spending a year away from the NFL. Simon re-signed with the team after the Super Bowl. He appeared in 44 games at Northern Illinois before signing as a rookie free agent and is now entering his second training camp with the New Orleans Saints.
Simon spoke with NewOrleansSaints.com to talk about his experience with the team, his year away from football, and his path from Minnesota in the pursuit of the NFL dream.
What was your experience like with the Saints last season, and how have you improved over this summer?
Last season, I signed as a rookie free agent, after rookie camp. I went through OTAs and training camp last year with the Saints. I was fortunate enough to be signed on to the practice squad to start the season. Then, unfortunately, they had to let me go to make room for some other guys. I was released then, and signed back shortly after the Super Bowl. I'm excited to be back for take two, you could call it. This past summer, I have known what to expect out of this whole NFL thing. The rookie jitters are out of the way. I know the offense much better this year, and its more going out and playing football than a learning process.
Coming from a non-BCS school, what type of adjustments have you been forced to make?
Obviously, everybody at this level is good. It's a lot of the little things, with route running and route technique. The corners are a lot more physical at this level, so as a receiver you need to get used to seeing coverages on the fly and adjusting to different corner techniques because the defense hides coverages a lot better. It's a lot of mental preparation in the film room and just kind of adjusting to the different things that you see.
What did you to keep in shape when you were out of football in 2009?
In 2009, I actually worked for a company called River Rental Tools down in Belle Chasse. They rented out oil drilling supplies to companies who went off-shore drilling. Every day, we would have our lunch break and everybody else would go take off, and I would end up going out for a run. I would find little things around our yard that I could pick up or lift, or do pushups or pull ups on. I just tried to prepare myself as much as I could in case that call did come. I just tried to prepare myself.
Did you do anything football related? Did you do any coaching?
I went back up to Northern Illinois and sat in on a couple meetings up there with the coaching staff. I tried to surround myself with football while I wasn't working down in Belle Chasse and I just tried to be around the game. I was always trying to find a restaurant or something to watch the Saints in if I was up in Illinois. I tried to stay in the loop as best as I could.
What player or coach has been particularly helpful in achieving your NFL dream?
At the college level, it was my coach PJ Fleck. He was my receiver coach up at Northern Illinois. He was a guy that was with the 49ers for a couple of years, so he kind of knew what it took to get there. He was a great mentor to me and he really changed my football career. Like you said, he kind of made this dream come true.
*Having spent an off-season here in New Orleans, what do you like about the city? *
Not the heat, that's for sure. New Orleans is a great city. It really is the best fans in the NFL. Who-Dat nation is intense with football and they love the New Orleans Saints. The atmosphere of the fans down here is something that once you are here, once you see, you just fall in love with.
Any particular restaurant?
To be honest, I haven't really been out much. I suppose we get a lot a Drago's here. So I would either say Drago's, or Jaeger's. That's good New Orleans food, so I would say one of those two.
Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do off the field?
Off the field. Being from Minnesota, I kind of grew up on a lake. I like to get out and go wakeboarding and just be out on the water and go tubing. That kind of stuff. When I'm not out there, I love going golfing. I'm not very good at it, but I love doing that. And fishing. I just like being outside and being active.
How have you had to adjust to this climate being from Minnesota?
I remember my first practice last year as a rookie; I thought I was going to keel over and die after about five minutes. I do a lot of stuff in the steam room here and, as much as possible, try to get out in this heat. There really is nothing you can do to prepare yourself. It turns in to a mental game after a while. You just try to stay mentally sharp as much as you can too.