IOWA CITY, Iowa — Brandon Simon quietly walked around Iowa’s practice field minding his own business until he was approached because of his jersey number.
A reporter asked, “Do you know who wore that number before you?”
“Yes, I do,” Simon said and smiled. “He’s from Jersey, too. I’ve got to live up to that number.”
Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels wore No. 93 from 2008-11. With his baritone voice and impeccable worth ethic, Daniels literally became the poster child for the Hawkeyes’ developmental program. Daniels, whose Sports Illustrated cover hangs on a wall next to Iowa’s weight room, had one scholarship offer before the Hawkeyes jumped in at the last minute. Daniels stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighed 230 pounds, hailed from Blackwood, N.J., and arrived in Iowa without a position. He settled in at defensive tackle, bulked up, started for two seasons and is now considered one of the NFL’s best at that position.
Last week Daniels narrated a football hype video for Iowa that went viral. Although Simon is in camp mode, the video made an impression on him.
“I definitely watched that,” Simon said. “I watched it a couple of times. Very inspirational.”
Simon, who hails from Newark, N.J., said he knew of Daniels before his Iowa career took off and has followed him through his success with the Green Bay Packers. However, the number, while coincidental, was given to him at random.
“I don’t really know [Daniels],” Simon said. “Hopefully I meet him one day.”
At Iowa, Simon’s No. 93 jersey number commands attention, and in spring practice, the redshirt freshman earned the double takes. He’s short and light (6-1, 240), but Simon bursts off the edge with quickness and speed. He recorded a sack in the spring game and applied pressure numerous times in pass-rush situations.
“I think I’m an explosive player and fast off the ball and my pass-rush abilities help the team,” Simon said.
Defensive line coach Reese Morgan said this spring Simon was further ahead as a pass rusher than a run stuffer, which is understandable considering his size. But if Simon earned even some situational snaps at defensive end it would be impressive.
The Hawkeyes return starters Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson and Anthony Nelson — all of whom rotated about equally — plus bring in 5-star freshman phenom A.J. Epenesa. That doesn’t give others plenty of reps, but Simon’s pass-rush skills could help him get on the field.
“A guy that really stands out to me is Brandon Simon,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “He’s done a good job. He’s a guy that’s kind of getting better, but he’s got great quickness. He’s got some good pass rush. So I could see him maybe in two-a-days, us putting him in there and getting another guy over there. Not as tall a guy, but he’s a very effective pass-rusher.”
“It’s something special,” Simon said of the defensive end group. “Everyone’s getting better and everybody is making everybody play up to an elite level, which is very good for the team.”
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