Simonton Meets The Press

Sept. 25, 2001

(How does the UCLA game fit into the 'big picture' of OSU's season?) 'You can't really focus to much on the 'big picture' unless you're referring to UCLA - that is the big picture. That's the only picture that I can focus on right now. I don't get too much into where we are if we win, where we are if we lose - we've just got to go into this game with a focus to win it.'

(How will the loss of strong safety Calvin Carlyle to injury affect OSU?) 'It means somebody has to step up. It's kind of like losing one of your valves. For me, personally, it means more than to anybody else on this team. I lose a brother out there, somebody who I spent years preparing with, focusing for these times. But if it was me, I'd do the same thing, so I just pray that he heals up recovers and is back to full strength. He's going to be a great asset to next year's squad. For that, that's cool, he'll be able to show these young guys how to get it on. It will definitely test his leadership. For him, it's a great situation, but for us, it means somebody has to step up. That's the name of the game. We lost a lot of pieces from last year, and you understand injuries are part of the game. It just means somebody has to step up.'

(Last season, OSU turned the corner and began its great play when Pacific-10 games began, do you think it will be the same this fall?) 'You always turn the corner when you come to the Pac-10. Sometimes you make a wrong turn, sometimes the wind's got you just right. You don't know until that Saturday. You always have a good feeling going in like, 'Man, we can do this, we can do this.' We had that last year and it worked. We're just trying to find that again this year - that same kind of preparation, the sense of urgency. You kind of have to be a little scared. It's your first one, you've got to go out and 'All right, where are we?' We're going to find out.'

(With world events, no games and school starting, what have the last few weeks been like for you?) 'I'm excited about getting back to school. In a way, I'm glad we don't play in the same fashion as other teams, we have few weeks to just focus on football (since school starts in late September - this year, Sept. 24). But sometimes, after a while, it's kind of like a little too much football for the system so I'm kind of excited to start school, to get my mind diverted to some other things. What all there's been in the last few weeks, I really look at it as an opportunity for other people to realize that sports is a getaway. Unless you're a paid professional from a sport, it's not life, even then, it's not life - you still have family, you have other obligations. Sports is meant to be a getaway, it's not life, it's not life or death. It's a getaway. I think the humbling effect of the last two weeks has brought us all to that same conclusion, and for that I'm thankful. Now I can just be an athlete and help them get away.'

(You and a lot of your teammates are from California. When you play a team like UCLA or a northern California team, where you're from their backyard, do you get a little more pumped up because maybe they overlooked you?) 'Yes and no. LA is definitely not my backyard, let alone where the UCLA campus is. I wish I could have grown up calling that my backyard, but my backyard was a lot different than that. For me, when I go back to the Bay Area and schools like Stanford, it gives you a little extra just because you know you have more of your hometown friends and family watching, more involved, they're more likely to be fans. That's kind of cool, to have people who grew up and were big-time UCLA fans and USC fans, and to really go up against that so you have fans who are old-school UCLA fans but they're also rooting for you - that also brings a little something extra to it.'

(For years, UCLA's defense has been called soft. What do you see that's different this year?) 'It's easy to all somebody soft when you don't have to go out there and let them hit you. I've had to go out the last two years and face those dudes. Sure, we found ways to make some plays, but we had some good plays fall into our lap. For instance, the play where (tight end) Marty Maurer fumbled it and (wide receiver Robert) Prescott catching it (for a touchdown in 2000), so we've had some good breaks against them, as well. But I've got some pretty good bruises to let you know they go out and put their pad on pad, so you can't really get caught up in that. That's something that's been thrown at them that they've had to motivate from, so ... it's only so often you can get called 'soft' before you really go out and work to counteract that, so that's what we face.'

(What are the biggest things OSU has worked on to get better during the layoff?) 'Giving the game its respect, which means being prepared, which means coming out and working on things you need to work on. If you don't give the game its respect, you're going to get hurt, you're going to be beat, and you're going to get beat in a fashion that's not befitting a program that's really trying to build something. That's all I can look at. The coaches can go out and coach until they're blue in the face, but as a player, if you don't come out and really focus yourself and get yourself mentally ready, then nothing's going to happen. But the biggest thing we're looking at right now is just leadership, guys who are willing to stand up - who's ready to stand up. You lose a guy like Calvin off that defense - I can't even tell you what that means. The real question can't be answered in practice. You can prepare for it, but it won't be answered until Saturday.'

(Has it been difficult having this much down time early in the season?) 'It kind of feels weird having this much off time. We got a chance to go down to the Oregon game last weekend. To sit around and be a fan, I don't dig that too much unless it's from the comfort of my own couch. We've been sitting around watching a lot of football, so it feels ... with all the stuff that went on this last month, the additional layoff definitely didn't help anything.'

(Feel like the beginning of the season all over again?) 'No. We've been practicing way too long for this to be the beginning. It feels like anything other than the beginning.'

(On UCLA running back DeShaun Foster) 'He's a big part of their offense. If he doesn't play, if he's not healthy, they don't win. I guess that says a lot about DeShaun Foster.'

(On OSU's home-opener, and whether it feels good to finally have the home-field advantage) 'Always. It's always an advantage when you can play at home. You still have to be prepared because with other teams, you don't know who's really prepared to go on the road. Especially for us right now, opening up with two on the road, it will just feel good not having to travel, to be able to get some sleep, and to just come out and see your own fans out there. Even though we've been well-represented in both places, it's always better to have one at home.'

(Has the way OSU started the season changed your focus on the Heisman or OSU's focus on the season?) 'No. You go about the Heisman the same way. You just go out and prepare, you lead your team and try to get some wins, so that doesn't change. As far as the team, we had a lot of question marks coming in and we still have some of those question marks. Right now, we're just trying to figure out who's ready to stand up and be accountable for their team because everybody can't be followers, we have to have some leaders emerge. That's just the point where we are right now.'

(Calvin Carlyle is an emotional player - how much of a loss will that be?) 'We don't know, because we don't know who's going to stand up and fill the gap. If the team stands as it is, we may not make it out of it, but if we get some guys who stand up, it's still going to be a loss but you learn how to move on. We already needed some extra gaps filled, that guy needed some help with the emotional health of this team as well as just going out and performing. So losing him, you don't know what it means until you see who's ready to answer that call.'

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