August 29, 2013 11:34:29 AM
REFORM, Ala. -- Devonte and Deonte Simon have gone from getting knocked down to being difficult to contain.
It has been a long road from offensive linemen to quarterback and wide receiver for the Pickens County High School twin brothers, but they are focused on making their senior season together special.
The Simons and the Tornadoes will kick off the 2013 season at 7 p.m. Friday against Fayette County. Pickens County, which went 11-3 and lost to Marion County in the semifinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A playoffs, is ranked No. 4 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll. Brantley, Marion County, and Linden hold the top three spots.
"Last year, we missed it by one (a 42-41 loss to Marion County), so this year we are just going to push harder and harder and we're going to get state this year," Deonte Simon said.
Deonte Simon said he played guard and his brother played tackle when they started playing Pee Wee Football in the 5- to 8-year-old division. He said he and his brother played a year on the line before he transitioned to wide receiver and Devonte moved to running back. He credits his father for working with them at home and teaching them the fundamentals so they were ready at a young age
"I just try to go hard every play," Deonte Simon said. "I got knocked on my butt every now and then, but I kept trying. Eventually I made it."
Devonte said his love for football came through even at a young age. He praised his father for teaching him and his brother that they needed to bounce back after experiencing setbacks. He said he and his brother continue to value that lesson today.
"We were brought up with a passion for football," Devonte Simon said. 'The tougher it got, the better it made us as football players. It made us hard, and it made us go even harder."
Ezell Simon Jr. grew up in Aliceville and played football at Aliceville High. He said he and his wife, who is a teacher at Pickens County High, have five children and opted to send Devonte and Deonte to school in Reform, Ala., for more than just sports. The Simons also have twin daughters, Jakira, a nursing student at Bevill State Community College, and Latira, a chemistry major at Mississippi University for Women. Ezell Simon, who served in the Air Force, is a maintenance foreman at Columbus Air Force Base.
"They have really adapted and never let their size or their strength hinder them from putting forth an effort," Ezell Simon Jr. said. "I have always told them to do the best you can and to never give up. If you keep on fighting after a while you will pull through."
Ezell Simon Jr. said his sons really didn't do much blocking when they were offensive linemen on their first Pee Wee football team. He said Devonte and Deonte gravitated to running back and wide receiver -- positions that have become their second homes. This season, Devonte will be in his third year as starting quarterback. Last season, he threw for more than 2,300 yards and had 30 touchdowns. He was the guiding force of an offense that scored a school-record 588 points.
In addition to their exploits on offense, the Simons will play in the secondary. Off the field, Deonte plays the drums and Devonte plays the piano at Shady Grove Baptist Church, where their father has been a pastor for 10 months. Ezell Simon Jr. has been a pastor for 16 years total. He said he knew early on his sons would prove to be quite a formidable team.
"They are very, very close. If you see one, you're going to see the other," Simon Jr. said. "They always have been that close. They pretty much have the same hobbies, the same likes, and the same dislikes. You name it. Even as babies if you would separate them they would cry. If you would put them back together they would quiet down and play with each other."
These days, the brothers are still playing together, albeit at a much faster pace. Whether it has been baseball, basketball, or football, Devonte and Deonte Simon have stayed together and proven to be a dangerous duo of 17-year-olds. This year, they hope their work together and with their teammates results in a state title.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.