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Arizona State Sun Devils senior safety Jordan Simone lost for the season

Arizona State's Jordan Simone (38) tips a pass away from Washington's Joshua Perkins, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Lost in the excitement of Arizona State’s comeback victory Saturday was the loss of redshirt senior safety Jordan Simone.

The Sun Devils’ leading tackler — and arguably the heart and soul of the defense — hurt his right knee early in the second quarter and did not return.

Head coach Todd Graham feared the worst following the 27-17 win against Washington.

Those fears were confirmed Monday.

“Jordan is out for the remainder of the season,” he said at his weekly press conference.

The news wasn’t all that unexpected.

Simone himself alluded to a likely season-ending injury in a series of tweets after the game:

Graham didn’t specify the exact nature of the knee injury, though it’s safe to speculate Simone likely suffered some kind of ligament damage when he tackled Washington receiver Marvin Hall.

On the same play, redshirt junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola hurt his shoulder, causing him to exit the game. He is expected to play against rival Arizona on Saturday, according to Graham.

“My heart goes out to him; just a tremendous young man,” Graham said of Simone. “Tremendous story, you know, walking on here and earning a scholarship. I know he had played his best three games going into this last game. He epitomizes what our program (is). Got a heart of a champion. He’s a great giver of respect and I just hate it for him.”

Of Simone’s team-high 91 tackles, 74 are solo, the most in the Pac-12 and third nationally. He also ranks third on the Sun Devils in sacks (four) and is tied for second in both interceptions (two) and passes defensed (six).

Simone, named a team captain this season, transferred to ASU from Washington State in 2011.

After a redshirt season the following year, he spent 2013 on the scout team. It was that work with the scout team defense that not only earned Simone a starting job in 2014, but a scholarship as well.

Recently, Simone was once again nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding collegiate football student-athlete who began his career as a walk-on.

“He’s got a special heart,” said quarterback Mike Bercovici, who rooms with Simone along with running back D.J. Foster and receiver Ellis Jefferson. “Just to see him being done for the rest of the season is obviously extremely heartbreaking for his family, for our football family, for us as roommates. But if there is one kid that can bounce back from something like this, it’s him.

“Anybody that knows him has no worries about how he’s going to prepare at this point for the rest of his career. And you know that he’s going to be the best team-player that we have. He’ll be helping this football team whether he’s on the field or not.”

Simone spent the second half last Saturday on crutches, encouraging and teaching, paying particular attention to sophomores Chad Adams and James Johnson, who each saw snaps at Simone’s bandit safety position.

Adams had six tackles, while Johnson finished with five and one pass breakup plus he forced a fumble, the third of what would be a season-best four turnovers the Sun Devils gained against Washington.

“I know Jordan has all the belief in the world in those safeties that he leads in his ‘DB’ (defensive back) group,” Bercovici said. “So, the mission is simple; goals haven’t changed just because Jordan is not back there. But, Jordan will have an emphasis on this team. He’s still going to be that vocal kid that Jordan Simone always is.”

Added Graham, “Obviously, his leadership is still very vital to us and he’ll still play a very key role as we move forward.”

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