Simon commits to Rutgers

By on May 16, 2019

 

Manheim Central junior QB Evan Simon, who received 13 offers to play in college, made his decision Sunday to continue his career at Rutgers. Lititz Record file photo

Manheim Central junior QB Evan Simon, who received 13 offers to play in college, made his decision Sunday to continue his career at Rutgers. Lititz Record file photo

With a phone call Sunday night, Manheim Central junior QB Evan Simon made his decision official.

Rutgers University was his college selection.

And Scarlet Knights’ offensive coordinator John McNulty and head coach Chris Ash were the first ones to receive the good news from Simon.

Their reaction was priceless.

“They were pumped, I’ll tell you that,” Simon said.

Simon, too, is pumped to have his choice behind him, knowing where he will be for the next four years after graduating in 2020.

“It truly feels great,” Simon said. “Recruiting is over. I’m not going to visit other schools. I’m committed. Now it just feels like everything is focused on the season — weight room and all that good stuff.”

When all was said and done, Simon received 13 offers — from Rutgers, West Virginia, Pitt, Temple, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Colorado, Minnesota, Lehigh, and Toledo.

“I visited probably like 80 percent of the schools,” Simon remarked. “We’ve been all over the place, multiple times.”

His top five, in no specific order, were Cincinnati, Colorado, Pitt, Rutgers, and West Virginia.

Simon said he “prayed his butt off” over the weekend and just felt like Rutgers was the right fit.

“I feel like it’s a place where I can be to potentially make a huge impact,” the 6-foot-3, 205-pound signal-caller said. “I love winning. I feel like I’m used to that. I just love competing so much. The Big 10 is tough. I feel like the Big 10 is home and it’s great competition. I love it.”

Simon should feel used to winning. A two-year starting quarterback at Manheim Central, he has led the Barons to back-to-back Section Two and District Three 5A championships. In 2017, Central advanced to the PIAA State semi-finals, where it suffered a 31-28 loss to Gateway. Then this past fall, the Barons reached the State finals, dropping a 36-31 setback to Penn Hills.

During his career, Simon has completed 277-of-495 passes for 5,353 yards, with a program-record 59 touchdowns after surpassing former Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker last fall. He has also rushed 211 times for 1,113 yards and 15 TDs.

Following his junior season, Simon was named by USA Today Sports as a 2018 First-Team All-USA Pennsylvania quarterback, in addition to earning Pennsylvania Football Writers’, Pennsylvania Football News, and Eastern Pennsylvania Football 5A All-State Team accolades. He was also named a finalist for the Mr. PA Football Award

It didn’t go unnoticed by Rutgers’ coaches.

“They were straight up honest with me,” Simon said. “They’ve offered other quarterbacks, but they told me and showed me that I’m their number one guy. So that was pretty cool to know you’re wanted there at this program.”

“I think he’s going to have a heck of an opportunity there,” Barons’ coach Dave Hahn said. “He gets to be in a Power Five conference, a good Power Five school and compete at the highest level. I think they’ve got some people around him at all positions. They just need a quarterback. And I think Evan can go in there and compete early and hopefully get a lot of playing time over his career.”

Artur Sitkowski, a rising junior, started for the Scarlet Knights last season, completing 134-of-273 passes for 1,158 yards, with four TDs and 18 INTs when Rutgers finished 1-11 overall (0-9 Big 10).

“I’m just going to compete and learn from him,” Simon said.

Sitkowski was among the players that Simon was able to spend time with on his visits, and he felt like he connected with his future teammates.

“After every visit, it just keeps getting harder,” Simon said. “We went to Colorado and you’re like, ‘Holy crap.’ They all have nice facilities, they all have pretty good academics, they all have tutors. At the end of the day, it’s the players. I got a really good vibe off them. I got to hang out with them a good bit.”

Academically, Simon came away very impressed with the Rutgers University business school.

“I think it’s one of the best around and there’s just a lot of opportunities football-wise and after college,” Simon said.

The opportunity to play in the pro-style offense operated by the Scarlet Knights was another selling point.

“They don’t do a whole lot of dual-threat quarterback run,” he said. “I feel like the pro style gig is where I fit in best.”

In addition to Sitkowski, sophomore-to-be Cole Snyder and a couple walk-ons are also on the Rutgers University roster.

But Simon believes he could compete to play early in his career with the Scarlet Knights.

“I would love that,” he said. “Work my butt off, that could be the case. And just having a big-time impact on a big-time school, I felt the best (at Rutgers) about that.”

Last year, freshmen Eddie Lewis and Shameen Jones, along with sophomores Raheem Blackshear and Bo Melton combined for 111 catches and 940 receiving yards.

Plus, Coatesville’s Aaron Young, who rushed for 1,621 yards and 28 TDs while leading the Red Raiders to the State 6A title, has signed with the Scarlet Knights.

“Rutgers’ roster is unbelievably young,” Simon said. “Freshmen and sophomores played last year. They’ve got a stud running back from Coatesville coming in. He’ll probably play right away, they say. So you give us two, three years, not a lot of people know that, but they’re onto something, obviously. They’re young.”

And they have coaches with impressive credentials. McNulty has NFL coaching experience with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers. Ash, meanwhile, was a former defensive coordinator at Ohio State University.

“(McNulty)’s been at Rutgers when they’ve had their success under (Greg) Schiano,” Hahn said, “he’s been in the NFL and worked with some quarterbacks there and everybody that I’ve talked to about coach McNulty has really sung his praises and said he’s a really good coach.”

Ash will lead the Scarlet Knights into State College this Nov. 20 to play the Nittany Lions. Then in Simon’s freshman season, Penn State — the team he grew up rooting for — will visit Rutgers on Nov. 28, 2020.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Simon said. “I truly am. It was a close game this past year.”

Certainly, his parents Chris and Michelle Simon will making a lot of trips to New Brunswick, N.J. to watch Evan and the Scarlet Knights play.

The fact that Rutgers is only about two hours away was a bonus in his decision.

“I’ve been told there’s not too many things like seeing your parents in the stands every game,” Simon said, “so that’s pretty cool.”

No doubt, these have been exciting times for the Simon family.

“I’ve been thinking all day,” Evan said, “not many people get the opportunity I’ve had over the (last) year and a half. So I’m feeling humbled and I’m excited at the same time.”

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