CANMORE – Keithan Simeon is on a mission to be every quarterback’s worst nightmare.
So far, business is booming for the hard hittin’ Canmore Wolverines’ defensive lineman whose tough play, outstanding skill, and dedication to the game got him a nod on Football Alberta’s Indigenous all-star team, which is associated with the Canada Football Cup for U18 males in Edmonton between July 7-16.
As part of it, Football Alberta accepted a challenge from Football Saskatchewan’s Indigenous all-star team to have an exhibition game July 14 at Foote Field in Edmonton.
The local defensive lineman of Blackfoot and Îyârhe Nakoda heritage predicts July 14 is going to be a bad day to be a quarterback.
“Whatever Native quarterback they got on that side – Cree, Ojibwe, Navajo – I’m gonna slap that straight often and I’m gonna turn them into a basketball player or soccer player,” said Simeon.
“I’m pumped, you know, Saskatchewan literally has the top players in Canada, but I’m so confident enough that I'm gonna cook them up. I’ve been hungry all last season and I’ve barely had enough ball time and I’m still hungry, so big boy’s gotta eat.”
Full of character on and off the field, football has been a major force in Simeon’s teenage years.
Post-all-star tryouts in mid-May up in Nisku, near Edmonton, was all that was on the mind of the Grade 11 football player. When he found out he had been selected, it was a shocking, proud, and emotional moment for Simeon in his journey.
He immediately called his family about the accomplishment and why playing the sport has changed him.
“I put football in front of everything in life,” said Simeon. “It helped me so much and in so many ways. It took me out of my darkest places and it’s just really uplifted me to the point where I feel like I’m unstoppable in ways now.”
Joining the sport as a soft, insecure 300-pounder, Simeon’s journey into hard work and dedication began. Throughout life, he was bullied for his larger body size, but when he stepped into the locker room for the first practice with the Wolverines, he immediately thought he could make a positive difference using his natural gifts.
He slimmed down and added muscle and speed to his arsenal and developed into a defensive monster on the gridiron. Simeon even surprised himself by enjoying the extra workouts and drills he put in to get to where he wanted to be. He’s the type of athlete who puts in an extra one per cent at the gym.
“It may not seem like something in the moment, but I guarantee you 10 years from now, you’re either going to be either regretting not taking that extra one per cent or you’re going to be clapping away, sitting somewhere, watching that sunset," he said.
He now stands six-foot-two and hits the scales at 270 pounds and is a confident young man, who’s emerged as one of the go-to leaders of the high school team.
Built to bring the pain, Simeon’s been tackling opponents with the velocity of a speeding truck for three seasons now.
“The first moment I fell in love with football was when I knocked over this really big chubby guy, in my first year,” said Simeon. “In that moment, I felt like a badass. (...) I wasn’t out there too long, but I was just cooking in that game and that’s when I was like I’m ready to go all four quarters, I got what it takes for next season and, trust me, I’m going to put that work in and I’m going to come back a dog.”
Brute force is just one part of Simeon’s impressive game. Mix football IQ, unsuspecting speed and an edge to his game, the talented No. 65 is an agile big man with an explosive first step that’s become nightmare fuel for opposing quarterbacks. He averaged multiple sacks and tackles per game last season.
Playing on the Wolverines, Simeon’s a leader and a hype man with a big personality and an infectious passion for the game. Wolverines sports team alums will smile to know that Simeon bleeds green and yellow and there is absolutely no love lost for arch rivals, the Drumheller Titans and Strathmore Spartans – but mainly Drum’.
“It’s changed me,” said Simeon, “not just physically, but like mentally, emotionally and just like the way I am as a person. Football has really changed me. The Canmore Wolverines, like, the association has really changed me, the program they got going on, the boys around me, my own little family that I lead there, you know, my brothers there, they changed me.”