Geroy Simon speaks at Big Brothers Big Sisters breakfast

Andrew
Andrew Schopp
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Saskatchewan Roughriders slot back Geroy Simon shared his tale of trials and tribulations as a guest speaker at the Big Brother Big Sisters of Prince Albert Big Breakfast on Thursday.

In his speech in the Ches Leach Lounge at the Art Hauser Centre, Simon told the story of his path from the rough and tumble town of Johnstown, Pa., to Canadian Football stardom.  

“I was so worried about myself, my ego and my individual accomplishments that I couldn’t get out of my own way,” Simon said in his speech, speaking of his unwillingness to move from offence to special teams while attending several NFL training camps.

Simon, who is the all-time career leader in CFL receiving yards, played college ball for the University of Maryland before slowly making his way to the CFL.

On Feb. 25, The Herald’s Perry Bergson told Simon’s story of finding happiness in the CFL after his struggle to break through into the NFL. 

Playing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, B.C. Lions and the Roughriders in his 15-year CFL career, Simon won a trio of Grey Cups, one with each team. 

Simon understands the role the Riders play in the province and its communities, prompting his decision to become involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. 

“We (Saskatchewan) have the greatest fans in the country,” he explained. “I wanted to come to a place where football is king and that’s the case here. It’s important for us to get back out into the community.”

The Big Breakfast is one of many fundraisers the non-profit organization holds to help fund mentoring services in Prince Albert.  Right now 22 children are active in the program with more than a dozen on the waiting list, although that number fluctuates weekly.

The organization hopes that Simon’s message will spark interest in the cause and hopefully increase volunteer numbers.

Understanding the importance of mentorship in a child’s development, Big Brothers Big Sisters speaks directly to Simon’s struggle. 

“A lot of things I went through, I didn’t have someone guiding me and giving me direction,” he explained.  “I was learning through trial and error.” 

The six-foot, 198-pound receiver has played in 237 regular season games, making 1,029 receptions for 16,352 yards while scoring 103 touchdowns.

He has only missed the playoffs once -- during that first season in Winnipeg in 1999 -- and as a result has played in 22 post-season games, making 85 grabs for 1,228 yards and seven TDs.

Most recently, Simon took home his third Grey Cup championship with a 45-23 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Nov. 24.

In his speech, Simon said that coming into the rabid atmosphere at Taylor Field, the Ti-Cats, “didn’t stand a chance,” as the Riders took home their fourth title.

Those interested in becoming a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert are encouraged to reach the organization at 306-922-1299.

Big Brothers Big Sisters hand out annual awards

In addition to Simon’s appearance, the Big Brother Big Sisters of Prince Albert handed out their annual awards on Thursday.

The Big Brother, Big Sister, Business and Volunteer of the year awards were handed out as the organization honoured those dedicated to shaping the lives of their “littles.”

Taylor Provenhert, who received the Big Brother of the Year award, said acting as a mentor to his little is just a whole lot of fun. 

“It’s just doing things you enjoy while at the same time helping youth and proving a mentor in their life,” Provenehert said of the program. “It takes a while to build a relationship with a youth but once you have it they come to you for answers.” 

The 2014 Big Sister of the Year, Jennifer Deobald has been paired up with her little for more than two years. She agreed with Provehert’s sentiment. 

“In the beginning she (little) was very shy,” Deobald explained. “Now, she’s more open and expressive. It takes a while to build the relationship but once you get there you can see the benefits in how their personality opens up and how they become more confident.”

Nigel Maxell, who has dedicated his time to the organization’s various events in Prince Albert, received Volunteer of the Year honours.

Maxwell, who had the benefit of a Big Brother growing up, understands the big-little relationship first-hand.

“It’s just about having a positive role model,” Maxwell explained. “As a kid who didn’t have a father figure at the time, there was someone there who took me out and we did guy things; hunting, fishing, hockey games, nothing big but as a kid growing up, that was huge.” 

andrew.schopp@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Art Hauser Centre

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