A Wrong Made Right
How Don Simons finally got the award he was cheated out of in 1961.
by Shelley Daily
From the January, 2021 issue
It took fifty-nine years, but in November, Don Simons finally received the high school award he deserved.
Don "the Bomb" was a senior standout in football, basketball, and track at Ann Arbor High in 1961 and was in the running to win the "Most Athletic" student award and a coveted spot in the yearbook. But after the votes were tallied, another senior's name was announced instead.
Fast forward to 2007, when Simons met up with some of his football teammates at Weber's to honor their high school coach. The "Most Athletic" winner from 1961 was there too and revealed to Simons and others that a friend had rigged the voting in his favor.
"It was shocking," says Simons. "I know he felt real bad about it." The group got together a few more times in the following months, and the classmate died of cancer in 2008.
Near the start of the pandemic, Simons organized a monthly Zoom meeting for about a dozen fellow athletes, now in their late seventies. Mike Staebler, a three-sport teammate, says Simons also excelled in baseball, golf, wrestling, and swimming.
Recruited by Arizona State for football, Simons chose EMU instead, but a concussion soon ended his football career. He earned his special education degree and worked for more than thirty years as a physical education teacher at the former Maxey Boys Training School and at Boysville before retiring in 2006. A father of three, he lost his wife in 2004 and his only son, Don, a star Huron High football player--"my heart, my backbone, my spirit"--died in 2012 at age twenty-nine. Simons and friends endowed a scholarship in his name that pays sports participation fees for Huron High students who can't afford them.
"He's been through a lot," says Kelley Rea, who's part of the Zoom group. "I told the other guys, it's time we fixed this." So last fall, the friends surprised Simons with a very belated "Most Athletic" award over Zoom and shared some tributes.
Rea visited Simons' house to present a plaque in person. Simons posed for pictures next to family photos, holding up his frayed Don "the Bomb" jersey in one photo, with his worn high school football cleats by his side.
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