By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. – Geroy Simon drove the same route to work every day during his 12 years as a player with the B.C. Lions.
Getting lost won’t be an issue when he starts his new job next week.
The former all-star receiver accepted a position in the Lions’ front office Thursday, returning to the club where he won two Grey Cup titles before being traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders prior to the 2013 season.
“It’s great to be home,” Simon told reporters at the team’s practice facility. “It’s great to just have another opportunity to grow. As a player you start at one point and you grow to wherever you end, and now this is the second phase.”
Simon played one season with the Roughriders, winning a third Grey Cup, before retiring in June. He worked in Saskatchewan’s front office last season and his new role with the Lions will be on both the football and business sides.
His stated goal is to become the general manager or president of a team, but the 39-year-old who maintains a home in the Vancouver area said he’s willing wait his turn.
“With every goal and every position that you want to get to, you have to take the proper steps,” said Simon. “This is a step that I have to take. It’s about growth for my career. The Lions are giving me an opportunity to take the next step in that growth process.”
The Lions and Simon had a difference of opinions on his role in the offence prior to the trade with the Roughriders, but fences were quickly mended and B.C. honoured him at a game last season.
“I believe in the relationship business and I believe that you don’t break down relationships just because there’s a disagreement,” said the 39-year-old. “Although I was kind of pissed that I had to leave, I think going to Saskatchewan was the best thing that happened to me in my career because it opened my eyes to a lot of different things.”
Lions general manager Wally Buono said the decision to deal Simon to a division rival was one based on football, adding that he’s happy to have him back in the fold.
“The thing about sports is that decisions have to be made,” said Buono. “It doesn’t exempt anybody. There’s going to be a time and a place when decisions have to be made. Sometimes there isn’t an agreement on that decision.”
The CFL’s all-time leading receiver with 1,029 catches for 16,352 yards, Simon said he was already scouting players when he was still in pads, so a move upstairs just made sense.
“I always had my notebook, always had the film,” he said. “In essence I was already doing player personnel as a player. It was almost a grooming process.”
Buono said when he was coaching the Lions he was always impressed by Simon’s judge of talent.
“When you’re in football, you like to get feedback from the guys who are on the field,” said Buono. “They know better than most of us the kind of athletes that are out there. Geroy always had a pretty good eye for making an assessment on the talent of individuals.”
Simon â€” third in CFL history with 103 touchdown catches â€” added he was grateful to the Roughriders for the opportunities that franchise gave him both on and off the field.
“Going to Saskatchewan really opened my eyes to (see) there’s other ways to do things,” he said. “It really just gave me the experience that I needed to move forward. I don’t think the relationship (with the Lions) had broken down or whatever.
“We just disagreed and I moved on, but now I’m back.”