That Tharold Simon led the LSU football team with 10 pass deflections last season would appear to be a testament to his playing ability.
Simon says the stat is a mark of frustration, not pride.
“Most of those pass deflections should have been interceptions,” Simon said. “I’m not at all (satisfied). I have to come down with those.”
To turn PBUs into INTs on the stat sheet, Simon has spent the offseason trying to remodel himself into a better player. A Tharold Simon 2.0, if you will.
Listed at 187 pounds, Simon said he’s actually about 10 pounds heavier than that. A shade faster, too. And he spends a not-so-insignificant amount of time on the practice field running pass routes instead of defensive alignments, to make his hands more receptive magnets for opposing passes.
“I have to be like that,” Simon said. “Last year, I could have been, like, second in the conference in interceptions (he had two). But I dropped a lot. This year, I have to be more confident and go get those balls.”
Simon may be his harshest critic, but not the only one.
He’s sure to have company.
You see, the junior from Eunice is not just stepping into a starting role.
He’s taking over a franchise.
To be sure, LSU has gained its growing reputation as “DBU,” in large measure because of the man who plays on the other side of the secondary from Simon. Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist and captured the Bednarik Award last year, and is everybody’s All-American this season.
But “DBU” opened its doors long before Mathieu enrolled.
It started at cornerback way back with Corey Webster, a second-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the New York Giants. There were also safeties like LaRon Landry, a first-round pick by the Redskins in 2007, and All-American Craig Steltz, who’s entering his fifth season with the Chicago Bears.
Then there was Patrick Peterson, who won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2010 and was the fifth overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. It continued in 2011 as Morris Claiborne also picked up a Thorpe Award on his way out the door to becoming the No. 6 overall pick of this year’s draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Simon could be that man in 2012, but these are potentially stifling expectations.
Despite that Simon, at least publicly, is inviting the challenge as he would a pass that he has a chance to pick off — just the way Claiborne and Peterson used to do it.
“I’m accepting it with a lot of confidence,” Simon said. “With the last two corners who went to the top, I’m having to prove myself now and fit into their shoes.”
Simon’s confidence is the quiet sort. Subtle, not in your face. Inviting, not overbearing.
Even a relative boast — that he is playing more of an off man technique these days, rather than press man coverage, because he has already mastered the latter — sounds like a statement of fact rather than pride.
He said he actually feels like he’s already been a starter. But he knows he must take his game to another level now.
“I feel like I’ve got to step up a lot more,” Simon said. “I’ve got to be mentally tough now, because I’m going to be on the field more than I was my first two years here.”
Sounds like “DBU” has a new major tenant.