ADA - Many volunteers are essential in making a football game happen. Few are as vital, yet unrecognized, as the Chain Gang! The three to four person crew who run the chains are responsible for marking the invisible barrier the offensive team must cross, in no more than four attempts, in order to retain the football, repeat the process, and make their way toward a touchdown.For Dave Simon, football is more than just a game, it's a way of life. Born and raised, in Ada, to Sylvan "Dutch" and Wanda Simon, he grew up playing football. Simon started playing in Jr. High and continued through High School working his way to co-captain with his cousin, Steve Simon, his senior year. That year, 1965, was a very memorable year. Both cousins were "big boys" and had built respect as offensive guards, but that year Dave and Steve were both pulled from from the line to half-back and full-back respectively.
Dave remembers "our back field was heavier than our line!"
The surprise move worked earning Dave All-Star Honorable Mention. More importantly, he remembers as co-captains, he and his cousin got the privilege of escorting the beautiful Homecoming Queen, Karen Krofft, who would later become his wife.
After graduating in 1966, Simon worked at his dad's Sohio Gas Station for a while until joining the Navy later that year. Dave spent much of his four years in the Navy stationed in Iceland, but never forgot his love of football and played on intramural teams. Eventually he returned stateside and married his high school sweetheart in Norfolk, S.C., where they started their family with the birth of son Ryan in 1970. With his four year stint coming to a close, the Simons made plans to return back home to Ada in 1971. Their family grew with the addition of Jennifer, Nathan and Autumn, all Ada graduates.
Simon worked at Dana, in Lima, for over 33 years, but his true love of the game brought him back to the field. His dad, "Dutch", and his Uncle Evan were on the chain crew for both Ada High School and Ohio Northern University football games.
Simon recalls that back in high school, "Dad's love was always football and fishing but sometimes they would happen at the same time, so I would sub for him on the Chain Gang."
Like his father, Simon joined the Chain Gang for both Ada Schools and ONU; a volunteer career that would last more than 40 years! The last 15 years, Karen joined him as the first woman in this area to record stats from the sidelines.
Simon enjoyed being on the sidelines, while his sons were in school, either as coach during Midget Football or on the chain crew. He proudly held the sticks throughout his oldest grandson's, Cole Simon who graduated just last year, football career.
Simon jokes that his ambition was to "stay with the Chain Gang until he was hurt getting run over!"
That never did happen, but his diagnosis of cancer last year and the subsequent treatments have slowed him down. He has cut back to only being on the crew for the Ada Jr. High Football team to support another grandson, Chase Sumner.
Simon's years of dedication and love of the game were recognized as he was chosen to be Honorary Captain at the last home football game between Ada and Lima Central Catholic, on a rainy and cold Oct. 26, 2012. Huddled in Carhart overalls, Dave jogged out to the middle of the field, alongside Ada High School Seniors, to receive the coin toss, standing ovation, and round of applause and gratitude from the crowd.