Written by Michael Fragale
Fred. S. “Jack” Simons was a four-year starter as a halfback and fullback on WVU’s football teams from 1920-23. He also played linebacker on defense.
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He came to Morgantown from New Cumberland, where he was a rare four-year, four-sport standout in high school. He scored 38 touchdowns and 60 extra points as a senior. His 288 points stood as the state’s single-season football scoring record for 49 years.
Simons starred on the 1922 Mountaineer team that posted a 10-0-1 record and remains the only undefeated-but-once-tied team in school history. He caught a 16-yard pass from Nick Nardacci for the game-winning score in a 21-13 victory over Gonzaga in the 1922 East-West Bowl.
In all, Simons had a hand in a combined record of 27-9-4. He was elected the only captain of the 1923 team that went 7-1-1, including a 13-7 victory over Pitt. He was the leading ground-gainer against the Panthers with 77 yards, 19 more than Pitt’s entire team total.
Simons’ greatest game as a ballcarrier came that same season in a 27-7 upset of powerful Rutgers. He gained 144 yards on 20 rushes. He is one of just six backs on WVU’s all-time team for the period 1919-29 when a player saw action on offense and defense.
After graduating in spring 1924, he spent a year as player-coach with the Steubenville (Ohio) Pros. The team of former college players competed on Saturdays against semi-pro clubs from other communities in the Tri-State area. However, that Ohio league switched to a full-time format in 1925, forcing Simons to retire as a player. He had married Ethel Wilson of Morgantown when he was just a sophomore at WVU; they had two children by then; and Simons had his own insurance business to run.
Some 10 years later, though, he was back in sports at the high school level as an unpaid volunteer. He became athletic director and started a football program at St. Francis High in 1933. Without compensation, he also served as head coach through 1938. His teams earned victories over much larger schools, mostly in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Those in 1935 and 1938 went undefeated with 9-0 records.
Simons, who died in 1997 at the age of 96, was inducted to the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.