We would like to thank John Simonitis for taking the time to talk to the Panther Lair. John is neophyte to the game of football. Look for big John's talents to improve exponentially in the future. Panther fans will love his "tough guy" attitude and stellar work ethic.
Three years ago, John Simonitis was better known for his prowess on the basketball court. At a lengthy 6-5, he was averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds a game at the center position. Although early in his high school career, it appeared that Simonitis had the potential to play college hoops. Around that time, several of his friends began to talk to him about football. One friend in particular, quarterback Chuck Suppen, insisted that John would be a natural at the sport due to his amble size. After much pleading from Suppen, Simonitis decided to give football a try. Within two years, John has added roughly 20 pounds and earned a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh!
John Simonitis (6-5 285), from Dallas High School in Dallas, PA (Luzerne County), officially became the seventh member of the Panthers Class of 2002. He was primarily recruited to play offensive line for the Panthers. "I'm not sure where they will put me. I could play either offensive tackle or guard. I prefer defensive tackle, but I was recruited as an offensive lineman. Maybe if I work real hard they would consider a move. I will have to improve my speed if I want to play defense," stated Simonitis. John runs an impressive 5.0 forty-yard dash and is capable of bench-pressing 330 lbs. He has added at least ten pounds a year since his sophomore year. John felt confident that he could easily hold 300 plus pounds on his sizeable frame. Simonitis chose the Panthers over Temple and Hofstra. West Virginia and Penn State heavily recruited him as well. It appears that both schools were on the verge of offering John before his early commitment to the Panthers. When asked what he would have done if Pitt, West Virginia, and Penn State offered on the same day, John quickly responded, "It may have taken me a little longer, but I would have still chose Pitt. I really don't like Penn State that much. Pitt beat them last year and that said something to me. It was a big deal. The Panthers early offer meant a great deal to me. It showed that they had confidence in my abilities." Simonitis won the "outstanding lineman" honor at both West Virginia and Pitt summer football camps.
John chose the Panthers for a myriad of reasons. "I loved the facilities. They blew me away. The coaches were great. Coach Freeman is a great guy. I'm a country boy and thought it would be great to experience the city. I think it will be great," stated Simonitis. John plans on majoring in Criminal Justice. He hopes to one day work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations. John carries a solid 2.8 grade point average and he recently scored a 990 on his SATs.
Simonitis carries a tough guy mentality onto the football field. He loves the physicality of the game. "I'll attack you on the field. I'll come out and hit you or jam you in the facemask - whatever it takes. On defense, I'll use my speed and put a move on the guy. I look slow, but I can move. I'm very aggressive and physical. I'm a tough guy and I can dish it out," stated Simonitis. John is enamored with the play of Oakland Raider Darrell Russell. Russell, like Simonitis, is a "take no prisoners" type of player. When asked if early playing time was an issue, John simply stated, "I want to play, but I won't mind a redshirt. The redshirt will give me a year to get bigger and faster."
Recruiting Notes: Dallas, PA quarterback Chuck Suppen (mentioned above) is a rabid Panther fan. He is a strapping 6-5 215 lbs. and has outstanding arm strength. Suppen is hoping to receive a scholarship offer from the Panthers. With John Simonitis in the fold, the Panthers coaching staff would love to add local offensive lineman Mark Farris (6-6 285) from North Hills High School (Pittsburgh, PA) and Brian Borgoyn (6-5 290) from Woodland Hills High School (Pittsburgh, PA).