Jan. 1, 2001
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Ken Simonton is 5-feet, 8-inches and 194 pounds ofmuscle, mouth and massive self-confidence.
The Oregon State junior thinks the NCAA unfairly takes advantage of athletesand he coyly refuses to heap praise on the storied football heritage of NotreDame, the Beavers' opponent in Monday night's Fiesta Bowl.
He also is so good that he should be a legitimate contender for nextseason's Heisman Trophy.
To borrow one of his favorite phrases - so be it.
'Somebody once told me if you're in it, be in it to win it,' Simontonsaid, 'be in it to make it to the top. It's great to hear your name mixed upin the pile, but you'll know when I'm on that campaign. I won't have to saynothing, you'll know.'
Simonton, a second-team all-American, is one of only six Pac-10 backs togain more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. If he does it as asenior, he will be the first Pac-10 back to do it in four. This year, he wassixth nationally in rushing at 134 yards per game.
His talk may irritate opponents, but his teammates love him.
'He's a great guy to play with,' quarterback Jonathan Smith said. 'He'smy favorite guy to play with on the team, hands down. He likes to compete somuch. He's so enthusiastic. That's the way he plays. Beyond just football, Ilike being around him. He's a complete person. He's not just a football player.He's a genuine guy. He's a guy I respect a great deal.'
Simonton comes from an athletic family. His father, Ken II, played for theBoston Red Sox. His brother Benji has been an outfielder in the San FranciscoGiants organization for seven years. His cousin Cy Simonton has been in theSeattle Mariners organization for three years.
Simonton long ago got over his desire to prove himself because of hisheight.
'I don't feel I have to prove it to anybody else,' he said. 'I knew Icould come to this level and do what I do. I know I can dominate even more atthis level. I have to find different things to drive me now. It doesn't matterwhat the world thinks of me. I know.'
After watching videotape of Simonton, the Notre Dame defenders have agrudging admiration for him.
'He's just a very talented, explosive back,' Irish defensive end AnthonyWeaver said. 'He hides behind that offensive line and hits that hole with somuch authority. You're not going to arm-tackle this guy. He's very powerful,too, which is kind of deceiving about him because he's so small.'
Simonton isn't about to say anything special about Notre Dame, though.
When a reporter suggested it was a lot different beating a program likeNotre Dame than, say, Texas Tech, Simonton replied, 'Is it?'
'On any given Saturday, if a team comes out and they want it more, be itFlorida State or Temple, if a team wants it, nine times out of 10 they're goingto have it. So I don't really look past any team. The team that wants it isgoing to have it,' Simonton said.
But if he beats Notre Dame it's good for the Beavers' program because theIrish are a great program, the reporter said.
'So be it,' Simonton replied.
Simonton has been careful not to repeat his anti-NCAA remarks while theBeavers were in Arizona.
'I want to make sure my deal is to focus on Jan. 1, not my views on collegefootball, the NCAA or whatever,' Simonton said. 'When we're done with that,if somebody still wants to put a camera in my face, maybe I'll vent, maybe I'llrun away. Who knows? But right now it's time to focus on what we came herefor.'
It is only a short-term muzzle, to be sure. Simonton has no plans to temperhis act.
'Ever since I was young, people would look at you and tell youautomatically what you can and cannot do,' he said. 'You'll either learn tobe what people want you to be, or you'll learn to have pride in who you are.'
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer