MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

June 30, 2014

Vian product leads area’s depth at linebacker

There had always been a sibling to share the spotlight with.

So last season became Rylee Simon’s chance to show how he could go it alone, on a team that had lost not only his older brother Rowdy Simon, but a substantial senior class off a Class 2A semifinal squad.

The Vian Wolverine had never played an organized sport without Rowdy, the 2012-13 Phoenix Male Athlete of the Year who had moved on to the University of Tulsa as a walk-on linebacker.

All he did was, well, look like a Simon.

The linebacker succeeded Rowdy as the Small School Defensive Player of the Year as the Wolverines defied tapered expectations and made it back to the semifinals. He was the team leader in tackles, something he had actually done the two previous seasons.

He also carried the ball 151 times for 1,166 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first season as starting quarterback, complete 68 of 127 passes for 1,290 yards and 10 touchdowns and average 39.46 yards per kick as the team’s punter.

“I just have one goal this year and that’s to win a football state championship,” Rylee said. “Last year, it was not just Rowdy that was gone but basically the whole line. This season we have that one year under us. I’ve been going to a lot of camps to get me ready for the upcoming season.”

When the season began, Vian coach Brandon Tyler, the Phoenix’s 2013 Coach of the Year, was well aware that Rylee was going to handle the pressure of the additional focus minus his brother's Rowdy's presence.

“He’s a team player,” Tyler said. ”He works very hard and is very humble. He’s everything you want out of a player as a coach. He’s a team leader and going into his senior year, we expect him to do the same.”

Not only was Rylee successful in football, the 6-foot-1 senior was a selection at third base on the 2014 All-Phoenix team, helping the Wolverines to the Class 3A state semifinals. However, it’s Rylee’s prowess in wrestling, which he was forced to miss last season because of health issues, that helps him when it comes to his football.

“It helps you with your balance and physicality,” Rylee said.

Rylee will not be the only linebacker that offenses can key on when playing Vian. A.J. Rodriguez, a 6-1, 225 pound senior, moved from defensive end to linebacker in week 11 and finished with 82 tackles.

“A.J. was our utility player all year,” Tyler said. “On offense, he started at fullback, moved to tight end and in week 10 moved to tackle because of injuries. He also handled our place kicking duties and converted 47 of 62 extra points.”

Among the other top returning linebackers in the area:

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