By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico
With the AFC’s top two teams duking it out today, one of the NFL’s best running backs is being coached by a Greyhound.
Eastern New Mexico alum Matt Simon, running backs coach for the San Diego Chargers, played linebacker for the Greyhounds before becoming a graduate assistant under then head coach Jack Scott.
Simon, an El Paso native, and said it was a no-brainer to come to Portales.
“Jack Scott sold me on ENMU,” Simon said over the phone Thursday. “I loved (Portales). It was a great time in my life — it was a great experience.”
Simon walked onto the Greyhound football team in the mid ‘70’s and Scott remembers it well.
“He had talent, but when he was a freshman he wasn’t very good,” Scott said. “He made an awful lot out of what he had. And he was a good student, so we never had to worry about him (in school).”
As far as coaching talent goes, Scott said that was never in question.
“He liked to see people improve,” Scott said. “And that’s a prerequisite (for coaching). And he was willing to do the things he needed to do to get there.”
Simon said he never set out to be a coach — it just happened.
“Jack Scott had a lot to do with me getting into coaching,” Simon said. “I had no intention of coaching. My main focus at ENMU was to get my education.
“I was considering not coaching, but opportunities kept presenting themselves,” Simon said.
Following his time in Portales, Simon had several coaching stops including at the University of Washington and the University of New Mexico before starting his NFL coaching career.
Simon’s NFL coaching career began in 1998 as a training camp intern for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. The following year, he was hired by the Baltimore Ravens to coach the running backs. Simon coached in Baltimore until 2005 and last year he was brought to San Diego under first-year head coach Norv Turner to coach the San Diego running backs.
Simon has worked with Super Bowl XXXII MVP Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes. He now coaches the 2007 NFL MVP and two-time league rushing champ LaDainian Tomlinson.
Lewis and Davis are two of five running backs in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 in a season.
“It’s really something,” Simon said. “I always laugh when people ask that. Coaching is coaching. I remember my first day at Denver’s training camp and Terrell Davis came to me and said, ‘Coach me.’”
The Chargers face a tough task against the undefeated New England Patriots this afternoon with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. But his former coach isn’t worried.
“He’ll be good wherever he’s at,” Scott said. “And I’m so tickled that he’s doing as well as he is.”