GERMANTOWN, Md — There was a time in Pat Simeone’s life when he lived and breathed football.
And opposing teams paid the price.
A two-way starter in 1981-82, Simeone made his biggest impression as a defensive tackle in the Planets’ 5-2 front.
“He was a big hitter on defense,” said longtime Mars assistant coach Terry Dillner. “He was the vocal leader. He’d tell the other guys, ‘We’re here and we’re going to win. Now let’s do what we need to do.’”
Simeone will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame Sept. 12, along with four others.
His love for the game began at an early age.
“I started playing for the Mars Martians midget team when I was 10 years old,” he said, “but even before that, my dad was teaching me blocking schemes and tackling. It was all centered around learning the game. I started lifting weights when I was 6 years old.”
Simeone, who also started as a junior and senior at offensive tackle, admits the Planets underachieved with a 5-5 record his junior season. He was just one of three returning lettermen the following season. After dropping a 21-13 decision to rival Knoch in the 1982 opener, Simeone and the Planets won eight of their next nine games. One contest, a Sept. 24 home game against Jeannette, stands out.
“Jeannette was the defending WPIAL (Class AA) champion and they hadn’t lost a conference game in three years,” Simeone said. “I sacked their quarterback, Dante Wiley, on a 4th-and-1 play to seal a 7-6 win.”
Despite an 8-2 record, the Planets missed out on a WPIAL playoff berth due to Gardner Points.
“That was the sad part, we didn’t get the chance to go into the playoffs,” said Simeone. “But we stuck together and were a team. The spirit in the school that year was unbelievable.”
Following the 1982 campaign, Simeone was voted as the team’s Most Valuable Player.
After graduating in the spring of 1983, Simeone headed north to Thiel College to play football for the Tomcats, but an ACL injury pulled the plug on those plans. He played semi-pro for the Hazelwood Raiders for two seasons before back and knee problems ended his competitive playing days.
“It was terrible,” he said of putting football in the rearview mirror. “I had been around football all my life. From the time I was six until I was 21, it was all I did.”
More recently, Simeone’s opponent has been a more formidable one than any he encountered on the gridiron. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999. He lost the sight in his right eye and was paralyzed on his right side, though he has gained some strength back.
There are lessons Simeone learned from football that he applies to his current ordeal.
“In football, there’s always a goal. It’s the same with MS. You have adversity in front of you daily and I have to battle.”
His induction into the Mars Hall of Fame came as a surprise.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I thought you had to be involved in multiple sports and I just played football. It’s a thrill and an honor.
“I never gave any thought to making the Hall of Fame, but now that it’s happening, there are people I wish were here to see it. My older brother, John, passed away in 1999 and my mother, Angeline, died five years ago. My whole family were big supporters of mine. A lot of credit goes to my dad, Pat, Sr., and little brother, David. He was always there for me to practice with. With me being older, it wasn’t easy on him.”
Simeone and his fiancee, Anita, live in Germantown, Md., 45 minutes west of Baltimore.