Offensive lineman held pro day for scouts in Lachine
Maurice Simba has taken another step towards his dream of playing professional football. The Stingers’s offensive lineman held a pro day for NFL scouts at the Catalogna Soccerplexe in Lachine on March 12.
“Personally, I think I’m very satisfied the way the day went,” Simba said. “I can say I gave all I could, and I hope the scouts saw that and liked it. I’m looking forward to what will happen.”
Scouts from the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets tested Simba through various drills. He bench pressed 25 reps of 225 pounds, had a 19-inch vertical jump, a broad jump of six feet, 11 inches, and ran his 40-yard dash in 5.99 seconds.
“For sure I would have liked to run a 4.4 [in the 40-yard dash] but it’s hard to do when you weigh 343 pounds; it’s just not realistic,” the six-foot-eight lineman jokingly told reporters. “As an athlete, you have to be great everyday, so that’s why I train. What I did today won’t change anything, and I’m just going to continue working hard.”
The lineman just finished his fourth season with the Stingers, and has been attracting scouts throughout the year. The CFL ranked Simba as the 18th-best Canadian prospect, and fifth-best offensive lineman in their September 2018 list. They ranked him 11th on their prospects list in December 2018 for the draft in May.
Scouts from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs attended several Stingers games this past season. In January, Simba played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in California alongside some of the best American prospects.
“I always keep my head down and I don’t take anything for granted,” Simba said. “The NFL is not granted for me, nothing is set that I’m going to play in the NFL […]. Any opportunity I have, whether it be in the CFL or NFL, I’m just grateful to be here.”
Simba’s journey to become a football player is quite impressive. Born in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Simba moved to Quebec at 18 years old to rejoin his mother, who left home when he was three. The 24-year-old barely knew what American football was when he came here, but has been playing for six years.
“I’m very lucky for what’s happened in my life the past couple of years,” Simba said. “This [pro day] is a way for me to say thank you to Concordia University and to the city of Montreal for giving me these opportunities. For an immigrant like me who arrived [six] years ago, to get these chances, it really means a lot.”
Simba normally played left tackle this season, but admits he would be able to play anywhere along the offensive line if asked. The scouts had him do drills for both the left and right tackle positions.
“Right now, I want to play everywhere. If you pay me, I can play centre,” Simba added. “I’m too broke right now; I just want to help my mom. But honestly, I just want to show scouts [that] if they give me a chance, I’ll show them I can play, whether at guard or tackle.”
Simba will attend the CFL national combine in Toronto from March 22 to 24. The NFL draft is on April 25, while the CFL has theirs on May 2. “If I get drafted [in the NFL], thank God,” Simba said. “But in my head right now, to not be disappointed, if I don’t get drafted, I just want to an invitation to a rookie mini-camp to prove what I can do. If the coach tells me no, I’m still a Canadian citizen and I can play in the CFL.”
Simba trying to follow Canadian lineman
A scout from the Kansas City Chiefs visited Montreal in the fall, and that team isn’t shy about drafting Canadian linemen. They drafted Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, where he’s been their starting guard since the 2015 season. Duvernay-Tardif is one of 12 Canadians who played in the NFL last season.
“He’s one of the most impressive guys I’ve ever seen,” said Simba about Duvernay-Tardif. “He really taught me humility. I met with him last year and the first thing he told me was thanks to my size, I have a shot.”
Simba said Duvernay-Tardif taught him what it takes to play in the NFL. “Even when scouts came to watch me last season, he told me, ‘Play your game as if they weren’t there,’” Simba said. “He’s a good mentor for me, and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Simba also said he would like to see more Canadians and U Sports players get a shot in the NFL, but they need more visibility first. “My goal is to give chances to other guys that the scouts could see,” Simba said. “Yeah, this year it was [me], but hopefully next year they will be back.”
Main photo by Nicholas Di Giovanni.