Deon Simon lay on the bench as he prepared to display his strength to the scouts and coaches watching at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
He gripped the bar, lifted it and began to press the 225-pound weight. He completed 35 reps — the most by any defensive lineman at the event.
The reality of Simon’s situation hit him that day.
“It really sinks in,” said Simon, a former standout at Glen Oaks. “It was just a really exciting moment to know that I was participating in the NFL combine.”
Following his four-year stint as a defensive lineman for Northwestern State, Simon has a new career that is just beginning to unfold. After an impressive showing at the combine in February, he could hear his name being called when the NFL draft kicks off Thursday.
For now, Simon is ranked among the top 25 defensive tackle prospects and is projected as a potential seventh-round pick.
Only one player from Northwestern State currently has a spot on an NFL roster: Jeremy Lane, a Super Bowl champion cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.
Based on his performance at Lucas Oil Stadium, the 6-foot-4, 321-pound Simon is hoping to be the second.
He finished the event with a 5.12 40-yard time, a 29.5-inch vertical jump and a 105-inch broad jump. Scouts raved about his wide frame and wingspan, considering his 33-inch arm length.
“When you walk up and you see him, he’s got the NFL size,” Northwestern State coach Jay Thomas said. “It’s very impressive when you see him in person. He’s probably one of the strongest guys to ever come out of Northwestern.”
And Simon showed that power while with the Demons.
He registered 93 tackles in four seasons, including 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.
Simon’s best campaign was in 2013, when he had 42 tackles (seven for loss) and 4.5 sacks.
Simon missed the final five games of his senior season after suffering a sprained MCL, though the injury isn’t expected to be a serious factor moving forward.
That said, losing a chunk of one’s final season before making a move to the pros would dishearten most players.
Simon didn’t let the injury dampen his confidence.
“It didn’t really affect me,” Simon said. “I knew I could take that time to rehab it and get my flexibility and full range of motion back.”
With only days until his NFL dream possibly becomes a reality, Simon is healthy and ready to learn his next destination. His life certainly has turned around since he first arrived on campus in Natchitoches in 2011.
He didn’t have his own place to stay back then. He slept on his friends’ floors and couches and “ate chicken wings just about every night,” according to Thomas.
“He’s a guy who has sacrificed,” Thomas said. “He survived day-by-day. He just didn’t have a whole lot of advantages, but he found a way to make it.
“It hasn’t been a smooth road for him. He’s had to work and earn everything that he’s gotten.”
And all of those sacrifices could show their value this weekend.
Simon has dreamed of the moment that could come in the following days. The moment where he hears his name called. The instant that an NFL franchise chooses him to try to make an impact on its defensive line.
“I’ve been trying to picture when and where and how things take place,” Simon said. “I’ve been picturing if my name gets called and my phone rings and what my facial expression will be.”
As for what that face will be, he said he is just going to wait and see.
“That’ll probably be the spur of the moment at that time,” Simon said.