- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The physical tank was already empty.
Injured more seriously than anybody was aware of heading into the game, John Simon first refused to let a sore shoulder keep him off the field and then wouldn't allow it to limit his ability to impact the outcome.
But emotionally, the senior still had something left to give in the locker room after Ohio State escaped with a 35-28 win over California on Saturday. And with tears in his eyes, Simon drained what he had left in reserve with a heartfelt, impassioned speech to the Buckeyes that left little doubt about why he's a two-time captain.
"He opened his heart and poured it out to us," safety Christian Bryant said. "John Simon is the heart and soul of the defense right now.
"He gives us everything he has each and every week, in practice each and every day. He's one of those guys that never stops going."
There was actually some doubt about whether Simon would be able to get started against the Golden Bears thanks to a shoulder problem that was bad enough that threatened to keep him on the sidelines.
Even coach Urban Meyer didn't seem to have a total grasp on the severity of an injury that limited the defensive end throughout the week in practice, which is mostly attributable to Simon's silence and his determination to put on the pads no matter what. But that understanding of just what Simon was going though while helping the Buckeyes survive a handful of defensive lapses and picking up his first sack of the season only added to the legacy Meyer has wasted little time embracing.
"They kept telling me it would be fine, but it just didn't heal as fast as we hoped," Meyer said. "Boy, he just lost it in the locker room, as far as just sharing, opening up his soul for the team. And I've done this a long time, man -- mark it down, you can put up a jersey somewhere that says John Simon because that's a grown-a-- man.
"If we have another child, I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that. ... The thing about John, he doesn't say much to you other than, 'I'll be ready.'"
Simon had plenty more to say to his teammates when it was all over, and the message clearly had an impact on the Buckeyes in the aftermath of an uneven performance on both sides of the ball.
A defense that missed tackles and was gouged for huge plays will have to clean up some fundamental issues. The offense that sputtered in the middle stages of the game will have to find more consistency after dropping passes and struggling at times to get its running game going.
If we have another child, I want to name him Urban John Simon Meyer or something like that.
”-- Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer
And while there is only so much Simon can do to make those improvements happen, he can at least try to set an example. Flying around the edge with a banged-up shoulder to get to the quarterback and shut down a drive with a third-down sack is one way to do it. Simon then took the first opportunity he had after the game to do it with his words.
"That was a tough game for us," Simon said. "To go out there, to be able to go out there when I was a little dinged up, to go out there with the team and help any way I could, that meant the world to me.
"I just expressed that to the guys. We're all family, and I felt I had to do it."
Whether that inspires the Buckeyes to follow his lead and make sure they're all leaving the stadium on fumes moving forward remains to be seen.
But the challenge has officially been made to them now, even at the top of the program.
"It makes us all look in the mirror and say, 'Are we doing enough for our team?'" Meyer said. "Am I doing enough? The coaching staff, are we doing enough? Are we doing as much as he's doing? No.
"We've got to do more."