NORMAN — Gary Simon in an Oklahoma jersey is a product of Mike Stoops returning to Norman.
The freshman defensive back picked OU over Arkansas and Iowa State after Stoops made a visit. Simon is one of four Sooners from Florida. A St. Petersburg native, he grew up in between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. He earned a name on the football field and basketball court at Gibbs High School, but, really, who is Gary Simon?
He's Mike-Stoops' type of defensive back. He's a 6-foot-2, 185-pound three-star cornerback who also stars in basketball. As a junior and senior, he led the team in scoring.
During his recruitment, Stoops saw Simon play hoops. The defensive coordinator came away calling the recruit the high school version of Vince Carter.
Besides being a kid whose shoes have to match his outfit, he's known as laid back and likes to be the best at everything he does. But his coaches also called him athletic, a competitor and a real talent.
ANTONIO KNOX, Gibbs High School football coach on Simon:
“He is a real competitive person when it comes to the football field, even in any sport. He can be really very talented in anything he can do. That's why I knew that he would be OK going up to Oklahoma and compete for a job right away because he's just athletic. He is really an NFL kid. That's what I looked at and I told him that all the time.”
On how coachable Simon is: “He's a 10. He listens. He really wants to be really good at what he does. … When he makes mistakes, he's going to come to you and tell you, ‘Hey I messed up, coach. I'm going to get it.' He makes up for it. He makes a lot of plays just off his athletic ability.”
On Simon performing in front of a large crowd: “Listen, the stage and all of that stuff — nah, you know, that stuff doesn't bother him at all. I mean, certain players have that ‘it' factor when it comes to dealing with stardom and just dealing with different things that deal with sports … to go and play in front of 90,000 people, that won't bother him.”
LARRY MURPHY, Gibbs High School Basketball Coach On his basketball talent:
“I've been coaching for 17 years, and Gary's the best, the most talented kid I've coached in basketball. He's one of those kids that it doesn't take a whole lot of practice for him to keep his skill level up, which I'd never seen that in basketball. He's the first kid that I have ever coached that wasn't a gym rat and just stayed on top of his game.”
On his football talent: “He makes top plays on the football field with ease. He's a kid that didn't play any Little League football. He started playing football in the ninth grade. He just happened to be good at it.”
YUSUF SHAKIR, former head coach at Gibbs High School on Simon's growth:
“He's a very athletic kid. On JV, he played quarterback, kicker, punter and free safety. When we moved him onto varsity, he played defensive back. He was always very talented.”
On Simon as a player: “Phenomenal job. I put it like this — I think Oklahoma got a star and one of the best players in the state of Florida. I've coached lots of kids that went onto the NFL that are DBs, and he ranks at the top of the category.”
Mike Stoops, OU's defensive coordinator on Simon's progress:
“Gary's played awfully well. He's very athletic, he's very long and he's very explosive. Understanding the urgency, for a young player, becomes a very important element that Gary needs to be able to process. This is not high school, and getting high school players out of that mode can be somewhat frustrating. We have got to get Gary to understand there is a speed this game has to be played at, a sense of urgency; when he gets that, he can be a very effective player for us.”
His coaches said Simon will have no problem fitting in at Oklahoma. He's even going to try and give both football and basketball a chance. Regardless, if he's an NFL kid or an NBA kid, he's a youngster the Sooner Nation should keep its eyes on.