TEMPE — You can say that Arizona State defensive back Jordan Simone took the road less traveled in becoming a key piece to the team’s defense.
Simone spent his freshman year at Washington State playing sparingly on special teams before transferring to Arizona State, where he spent his sophomore year playing on the scout team.
The 6-foot safety didn’t even earn a scholarship until Aug. 21 of last year, almost exactly a year from today.
Since that day, the senior has done nothing but put in the work to becoming one of the Sun Devils’ best defensive players and leaders.
“I kind of just put my head down and went to work, and I still have my head down and am still working,” Simone said Wednesday. “I will look up when I am done playing football.”
Last season, Simone ranked first on the team with an average of 8.3 tackles per game and was an All-Pac 12 honorable mention.
He also became the first Sun Devil to record 20 or more tackles in a game since Mark Tingstad recorded 20 tackles in a 1988 game against USC.
After having such a successful season, one may think that Simone would set the bar high with extravagant goals. While that may be the case, the senior safety refused to publicly state his personal goals, though his head coach may have ruined that surprise.
“Defensive POY of Pac-12, first team All-American, his goals are extremely high,” head coach Todd Graham said of what he expects from Simone. “His level of play, I thought he was our best defensive football player last year. He is a really good player, and I want him to have those kinds of expectations.”
Simone leads a group of nine returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, the opposite of what they had going into last season when they implemented nine new starters.
That continuity is already paying dividends and has ASU’s defensive unit leap years ahead of where they were at this point of camp in 2014.
“We are way ahead of where we were last year,” Simone said. “Just the communication, and we pretty much have our whole defense in already. Last year, I don’t think we had 60 percent of our defense in yet.
“We are very explosive, very smart and tough defense that will run to the ball,” the safety added. “I think what our defense is all about is pursuing, being explosive and making plays.”
The Sun Devil defense won’t have to wait long to showcase their exciting brand of football.
ASU is just 17 days away from opening the season on ESPN against SEC powerhouse Texas A&M, a game that Simone and everybody else associated with Arizona State football is looking forward to.
“It’s a big statement, our first game is a big test and I am really excited,” he said.
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