Cody Simon lives in New Jersey and his mom ran track for the University of Michigan.
But the linebacker from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City won’t have to be taught to have disdain for Ohio State’s biggest rival.
“I've pretty much been a Michigan hater my entire life,” he said. “I don't know what caused it to be. But even though my mom went there, I've just always had something against them.”
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St. Peter’s coach Rich Hansen laughed when the subject of Simon and Michigan arose. He said that when the Wolverines made inquiries during recruiting, Simon really didn’t want anything to do with them.
“He absolutely hates Michigan,” Hansen said.
Simon, a four-star prospect ranked 123rd nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings, committed to Ohio State after a visit in late June. A few weeks earlier, he took a trip to see Nebraska. Watching the Buckeyes’ demolition of the Cornhuskers on Saturday night made Simon feel even better about his decision.
“Nebraska's a great program,” he said, “(but) I can see it being another few years before they're one of the powerhouses again. I think the confidence of Ohio State and the way they're playing defensively and offensively, it’s kind of amazing to see.
“To me, it was the best of both worlds — academically and athletically. I wanted to play for a team that was oriented around winning and winning championships. I think they’re the epitome of that.”
Simon’s immediate priority is to help St. Peter’s win a title. The Marauders entered the weekend at 4-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state.
Simon has been instrumental in their success. Last week, he returned an interception for a touchdown on the third play of the game. Two weeks ago, Simon had a strip-sack to seal a victory.
“I like to say I play smart and fast,” he said. “That's one of the things I kind of pride myself on — studying the other team and look at their tendencies.”
Hansen vouched for that.
“He just has tremendous maturity,” he said. “He’s obviously a great player and a great talent, but he’s an even better person. The kid is very sharp and totally selfless. He will do anything I’ve asked him to do and will play anywhere I need him to play.
“He has this innate instinct of wanting to be great and wanting us to be great. It's really a throwback mentality.”
Simon’s brother, Shayne, is a sophomore linebacker at Notre Dame. The brothers competed against each other throughout their childhood, and Cody credits Shayne for making him better. Notre Dame recruited Cody, but he believed the Buckeyes were a better fit.
Simon said his mom had no issue with him picking OSU.
“She was really happy with my decision,” he said.
Hansen has known Simon’s primary Ohio State recruiter, defensive co-coordinator and New Jersey native Jeff Hafley, for about 20 years. The same is true about coach Ryan Day. Hansen believes Ohio State is an ideal fit for Simon.
“He’s a kid who's going to work harder than anybody in that program,” Hansen said. “He's just a special guy. He’s the heartbeat of our program.”
St. Peter’s doesn’t allow its students to graduate early, so Simon won’t get to Ohio State until next June.
“I'm just enjoying watching them so far and I'm excited to go there and play with them,” he said.