By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
When Vian takes the field at Midwest City tonight for its Class 2A semifinal matchup against Davis, the outcome could be determined on what Simon says.
Senior running back/linebacker Rowdy Simon is the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 1,388 yards on 106 carries and is the second leading tackler, trailing his younger brother Rylee, a linebacker by trade, who has 136 tackles on the season.
After a season-high 313-yard rushing effort against Kansas, Rowdy carved up the Hennessey defense for 142 yards on 16 carries in Vian’s 43-13 win in the 2A quarterfinals.
Rylee believes his older brother’s talent opens up the offense.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go against him,” Rylee said. “He’s a big guy and I don’t have to go in the hole to get him. That’s good for us.”
Not to be outdone, Rylee is also Vian’s backup quarterback and has completed 69.7 percent of his passes.
Rowdy knows how valuable his younger brother is to the overall scheme of things.
“It’s been an honor playing with Rylee,” Rowdy said. “I remember my dad playing Rylee up a grade so we could play on the same team. It’s good to know you have your brother over there that you can trust.”
That was Joe Paul Simon’s doing.
“I held Rylee back in the first grade and from the third grade on, I had him play up in little league because he was tough enough to do that and ever since, he’s been right there with these seniors,” the father said.
“I really couldn’t have drawn it up any better. It goes deeper than just these two kids. This whole bunch is just so close, it’s incredible to see them together.”
While Rylee is one inch taller that his older sibling (6-0 vs. 5-11), Rowdy has a five-pound advantage on the scales (195-190) and growing up had to sometimes use that advantage to get his point across.
“There have been a few small instances where he’s fought over one thing and I’ve fought over the other,” Rowdy said. “We just kinda argued about it and then worked it out. Then it’s all good after that.”
And it’s been good for Vian coach Brandon Tyler.
“Both of these brothers are going to be successful men,” Tyler said. “They’re both hard workers and it’s been bred into them by a good family who goes to work every day with a blue-collar mentality. Those kids are no different — first in, last to leave at everything.”
That work ethic might get Rowdy connected with the Air Force Academy and its football program. He visited up there with his grandfather, Jerry Paul Simon, and both sides continue to talk although no offer has been made.
“I think he fits the bill there,” Joe Paul Simon said. “They’re all undersized overachievers, good disciplined kids.”
Although the two hope their high school careers end with not one but two more wins, Rylee has given some thought of what playing football will be like without his older brother on the team.
“It’s been a comforting feeling knowing he’s there by your side,” Rylee said. “It’s knowing that he’s got your back on these plays and you can lean on him pretty much the entire time we’re on the field.”
Phoenix sports editor Mike Kays contributed to this story.