TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State University Head Football Coach Todd Graham has hired John Simon as running backs coach, Coach Graham announced Monday. Simon is a veteran of the NFL and a former motivational speaker and high school coach and administrator.
Simon spent the previous three seasons at Southern Miss before he was hired as the wide receivers coach at Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 5.
“John has a familiarity with our system, knows what it takes to be successful, and has learned from the best coaches in our business, including Joe Gibbs, Steve Spurrier, Jeff Fisher, Hue Jackson, and Gary Crowton,” Coach Graham said. “With his background as a high school coach and administrator, John understands the importance of developing the character of our young men, not only their athletic ability, and has shown a dedication to improving the communities around him.”
Simon mentored a pair of 1,000-yard rushers at Southern Miss in 2015 and the Golden Eagles were one of just five programs in the Football Bowl Division to have two running backs collect at least 1,000 yards on the ground.
“I’m excited to be a part of the history and the culture here,” says Simon. “What coach Graham stands for and what he has accomplished here in four years is what I want to be a part of. Coach Graham believes in the complete student-athlete and that is what I believe in, both on and off the field. He believes in building relationships with recruits, parents and student-athletes. This is a natural fit for me, especially to be coaching running backs. I am so thankful for the opportunity."
Under Simon’s tutelage, running backs Jalen Richard and Ito Smith combined for more than 3,000 total yards, including 2,200 yards on the ground, and 29 total touchdowns in 2015 en route to Conference USA first and second team honors, respectively. Smith ranked 18th in the nation with 134 all-purpose yards per game in 2015 and Simon has a knack for involving his running backs in the passing game as evidenced by the more than 800 combined receiving yards out of the backfield this past season.
Simon was part of an offensive coaching staff that helped the Golden Eagles break five major offensive single-season school records in 2015, and notch a 10-win season that included a Conference USA West Division title and a victory against the University of Washington in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
He spent three years in the National Football League, including 2002 with the Tennessee Titans and 2003-04 with the Washington Redskins.
Following his professional football career, Simon worked as a motivational speaker geared toward at-risk youth through his non-profit organization I.M.A.G.E., which focused on improving minority areas.
Prior to his time at USM, Simon spent five years in a variety of roles at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Dallas, including position coach, coordinator, head coach, and athletics director, from 2008-12.
He began his coaching career as receivers coach at the school in 2008 before he moved to the other side of the ball as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2009. He became the special teams coordinator, secondary coach, and assistant athletics director in 2010, and was the interim head coach and athletics director the following season. He moved off the field in 2012 as the school’s athletics director.
Simon has participated in the NFLPA Coaching Symposium and NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy, and is active at numerous seminars across the country, including the THSCA Coaches Convention and AFCA Coaches Convention.
He gained more than 4,800 all-purpose yards and caught a pass in a then-NCAA record 36 consecutive games as a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech University from 1998 through 2001. He helped the Bulldogs to the program’s first Western Athletic Conference Championship and bowl appearance in 11 years as a senior in in 2001. Simon, who moved to wide receiver as a senior, received the 2001 Humanitarian Award at the Humanitarian Bowl and was a recipient of the Louisiana Tech President’s Award.
Simon and his wife, Cecelia, have two children, John IV and James.
Assistant coach DelVaughn Alexander will coach tight ends, while Josh Martin will serve the staff as a senior analyst.