Fourth-year trying to stay humble with scouts watching
On Aug. 30, the Canadian Football League (CFL) announced the top-20 prospects for the 2019 CFL draft. Maurice Simba, offensive lineman on the Concordia Stingers, was ranked 18th on the list of top Canadian prospects from U Sports and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“It was special for me and I had tears on my face,” Simba said. “My goal now is to work harder to be number one and the best at my position.”
Simba stands at a commanding six feet eight inches, weighing almost 320 pounds. The Stingers’s offensive lineman is a pure powerhouse, and as described by fellow lineman Matt Halbgewachs, a true leader.
“I think of him as like our spark plug, once Maurice gets going, we all get going,” Halbgewachs said.
Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Simba lived there with his grandparents until he was 18 years old. After that, he moved to Montreal to reunite with his parents. He had never played football and had a different idea of what his life and career in Canada would be like when he arrived.
“My first thought when I came here was that I was going to be a plumber,” Simba said. “I guess God had a different plan for me. My uncle was friends with a coach in Cégep at Montmorency. They set up a meeting and said I was going to play football. So, then my mind changed to ‘now I’m going to be a football player.’”
Simba began his path in football in 2013 with the Montmorency Nomades before joining the Stingers in 2015. Under the watchful eyes of Stingers offensive line coach Ted Karabatsos, Simba learned and excelled at the game.
Despite the guidance and proper coaching, Simba didn’t play much in his first year as a Stinger. This was in part due to his lack of experience, and because he started out with a gentle demeanor. Simba sat down with Karabatsos about why he wasn’t playing as much, and the coach said it was because he was soft, but offered up a great motivator.
“The most disrespectful thing a coach could say is you’re soft,” Simba said. “He told me one thing though: ‘If I walk into your house, you’re there and your mom is there, and I slap your mom. You’re just going to let me go?’ I said no. He said ‘every single play from now, imagine that guy in front of you [that you’re] supposed to block, imagine that guy walks into your house and tries to beat your mom.’”
Simba said that’s why he plays like he’s mad every play, because if someone were to touch his mom, he would make them pay twice.
This past May, both Simba and Halbgewachs were selected to take part in the annual East-West Bowl. The Bowl is a seven-day camp for CFL prospects that includes rigorous training exercises and a game. The camp is also heavily watched by scouts in the CFL and National Football League (NFL).
“It was really fun,” Simba said. “I feel very fortunate to [have been] selected for it. There were a lot of guys eligible on the team and I feel bad for them, because I felt that at least ten guys from Concordia should have gone. I thank God for that, and my coaches.”
Although a future in football looks bright for Simba, he still aims to complete his schooling. He is currently enrolled in the leisure science program, having transferred from religion last year, and he has some extra incentive to finish his schooling.
“Your football career could end in one second, so I realized being in university with the full scholarship, I’ve got to get my degree,” Simba said.
He added that, even if he ends up playing professionally, he wants to return to school every winter to complete his degree, because he promised his mom. “When I make a promise to her, it’s something I’m going to do.”
Even though Simba will be heavily watched by football scouts this season, he doesn’t believe he needs to prove himself to anyone else.
“It’s not fair to say that I’m proving myself to anyone but me,” Simba said. “We all work together and it’s not fair to say I work harder than anyone else. My goal every day when I step into that complex is I want to be better than the guy I was yesterday. Doesn’t matter how good practice was yesterday, I want to do better the next day.”
With an opportunity in the CFL and the potential for a shot in the NFL on the horizon, Simba’s focus remains on the season at hand at Concordia. From his humble beginnings in the Congo, to now being one of the top-20 prospects in Canada, his story of perseverance and heart is one to be admired.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, keep learning, stay humble and take it all day-by-day.”
Main photo by Gabe Chevalier.