How did former WSU walk on Jordan Simone become ASU star?

WHEN THE COUGARS host Arizona State on Saturday, Jordan Simone will return to Martin Stadium to face his old team. Who, you ask? We won't hold it against you if you don't remember the former Coug walk on who left Washington State after spring ball in 2012 -- and is now a star for the Sun Devils. How’d that happen, anyway? CF.C spoke to his brother and former WSU receiver Gino Simone, here's how he explained it.

There was plenty of turnover (always is with a new coach) when Mike Leach arrived at Washington State in December of 2011. Jordan, a  true freshman safety out of Sammamish was among the departures the spring after Leach and his staff arrived.

But few Cougar fans blinked at the time -- he was a walk on, played on some special teams in Paul Wulff's last year and was deep down on the depth chart that next spring.

But now? Given what Jordan has done at ASU, plenty of WSU fans are asking themselves: What happened? 

It just wasn’t a good fit, Gino told CF.C.

“He went through his first spring when Leach got there, but honestly, I don’t think Mike Breske (former WSU defensive coordinator) gave him a fair shake,” Gino said. “I think Breske saw him as a walk on and that was that. Jordan just felt like it wasn’t a good spot for him anymore."

Gino says Jordan found himself at a crossroads.

“He finished up school at WSU that year and then took a year off from football. He didn’t know if he wanted to play anymore. It was tough for him," said Gino.

As time went on, though, the younger Simone realized he missed the game more than he anticipated and was itching to get back on the football field.

“He stayed in school (WSU) for about a year and then the following winter he went down to ASU and got started,” Gino said. “Him and Coach (Chris) Ball (former WSU co-defensive coordinator under Wulff) were extremely close. He called him up and told him he missed the game and wanted to get down there and play for him.

“Ball said he didn’t have a scholarship for Jordan, but he told him to come down as a walk on and work his way up. Jordan eventually earned himself a scholarship and the rest has been history," said Gino.

It probably also didn't hurt that the boys' father, Ronnie Simone, played football at Arizona State.

SINCE ARRIVING to ASU, Jordan has certainly played bigger than his 6-0, 185-pound frame. After sitting out 2012, the Sun Devil defensive back redshirted 2013, spending the year on the scout team.

"The thing about Jordan is he may not be the biggest guy, but one thing we always pride ourselves on is that you can never measure the size of someone’s heart. That’s pretty evident when you see him play,” said Gino.

ASU fans have seen plenty of that. Jordan earned a scholarship in August of 2014 and started the season opener vs. Weber State. He solidified his starting spot two weeks later with a stellar outing in ASU's win over Colorado.

During that breakout '14 season, the former Skyline High product recorded 100 tackles (his 8.3 stops per game was first on the team) with two interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack. He was named Pac-12 honorable mention.

Through eight games this season, the redshirt senior, who was named an ASU defensive captain before the season opener, has recorded 73 tackles, two interceptions and four sacks.

“The thing about Jordan is that he’s always had a competitive fire unlike other guys I’ve been in contact with,” Gino, a former 4-star recruit, said. “He’s always been a dude that’s been overlooked. He kind of grew up in my shadow sometimes. He saw that I was a highly-recruited kid and wondered why he wasn’t getting the same looks.

“Between that and not really getting his shot at WSU, I think that’s what has driven his competitiveness. He wants to outwork everyone and it shows. You can see the fruits of his labor now. All of his hard work is paying off and it’s been really exciting to see.”

GINO SAID he will be in Martin on Saturday to see the Cougs and ASU do battle (12:30 p.m.; Fox Sports 1, sold out).

“It’s going to be a fun game," said Gino. "One of my favorite football memories was last year when I went to ASU to watch him play the Cougs. It was a great experience to see him go up against guys I recruited and hosted while I was at WSU. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like watching him face them in Pullman. I’m excited to watch it from that angle.”

So the million dollar question - with his brother on the opposing sideline - who does Gino, a proud Cougar alum who made 15 career starts at WSU before graduating in 2012, want to come out on top when the Cougs and Sun Devils collide?

“Man, I knew you were going to ask me that,” Gino said with a laugh. “I think the ideal situation would be if Jordan has 15 tackles, an interception and got Pac-12 Player of the week -- but the Cougs won. That’d be a good finish for me."

Simone photo

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