June 4, 2009 in Washington Voices

Simon ready for next move

College, athletics in WV senior’s future
Steve Christilaw schristilaw@msn.com
 
J. BART RAYNIAK bartr@spokesman.com photo

Kingston Simon qualified with his 400 meter relay team for the State 2A track meet. After graduation from West Valley High, he plans to play football at Pacific Lutheran University next year. bartr@spokesman.com
(Full-size photo)

Inside

Page 8: A list of graduating seniors and graduation details.

Kingston Simon is a seventh son. In some cultures, that status is linked to good fortune and a future filled with special gifts.

While the West Valley senior has more than his share of special gifts – gifts that make him a standout athlete who plays three sports – planning a future is a major challenge when the present is regularly in flux.

The youngest of 11, Simon was placed into the first of a dozen foster homes when he was 2. When he accepts his diploma from West Valley, it will be from the second high school he has attended in four years.

Despite growing up in a world that seems to have a revolving door, Simon is emphatic: he walks into a future of his own designs.

“There came a point in my life where I just decided that, if I was going to have a chance to make something of myself, it would be academics that would take me there and not athletics,” he said.

The potential for an athletic career could evaporate with one injury, he said. What you learn in the classroom stays with you.

“I landed with my oldest brother, Alan, and his family when I was 4,” Simon says. “They got me into sports. I did everything. Football, basketball, cross country. We lived in a rough part of town and it was a good way to keep out of trouble.”

When it came time to think about high school, his sister-in-law wanted to stress academics more and saw to it that he was enrolled at Ferris instead of Lewis and Clark, the neighborhood school.

“I played my three sports as a freshman: football, basketball and track,” he said. “As a sophomore I decided to cut back on basketball to concentrate on football. I was one of only two sophomores to play varsity football at Ferris that year.”

Things were good on the football field for a state playoff-caliber Saxons team. Simon played a good deal as a sophomore, more as a junior. In the classroom, he took advanced placement classes and kept himself in high academic standing with a 3.75 cumulative grade point average through his junior year.

Life at home, however, was difficult.

“I ended up leaving my brother’s house in February of my junior year,” Simon said. “Things just weren’t as stable as they’d been. I wasn’t causing trouble, but things just weren’t working out.”

He spent a week with Marcus, another brother in the neighborhood, then moved in with one of his football coaches, T. J. Farmer and his family.

“T.J. had been a volunteer football coach at Ferris, but the family decided that they wanted their son, T.J., to go to West Valley,” athletic director Wayne McKnight said. “Kingston came along because it was easier for the family to have everyone in one school and he’s just fit in beautifully.”

West Valley track coach Vic Wallace, who coaches defensive backs on the football team, has been integral part of Simon’s life since becoming an Eagle.

“He’s been a very good influence on me,” he said. “He’s encouraged me to take track more seriously and to use it as a way of making myself a better football player. He’s been a great role model for me as well.”

On the field, things couldn’t have been a better fit.

In the state track meet, Simon was on the second-place, sprint-relay team. He was encouraged by coach Jamie Nilles to try basketball again and played a role in West Valley’s GNL championship season.

But football was special. Simon had a big impact on both sides of the ball. As a running back he gave the team an explosive threat; as a defensive back he shut down opponents easily.

It also paved his way to college.

“I had applied to go to Stanford and I got accepted,” Simon said. “But I always thought that, if a school came to recruit me to play football that I would listen. At first, Western Washington looked at me and I was interested in going there because some friends of mine are on the team. But they canceled their whole program.”

Fate stepped in and played a hand.

“My coaches told me that another player from the Great Northern League had wanted to go to Pacific Lutheran and had sent them some film of him playing against us,” he explained. “They didn’t recruit him, but they liked what they saw of me and got in touch.”

The Lutes needed a freshman who could come in and start right away on both sides of the ball.

“It was supposed to be 20-minute meeting and I ended up talking to him for more than two hours, Simon said. “He asked me to tell him my story and I did. I’m excited. I looked into what PLU had to offer and I liked what I saw … I like the idea of playing football and still get the kind of education that I want.

A potential major hasn’t presented itself, he said, pre-law is one option; business is another.

“Whatever I decide, I’ll be on my own and I can make a life for myself,” he said. “I hate to say it and sound negative, but I’ve seen too many people, even in my own family, waste the opportunities they had. I am going to do that. I’m going to make the most out of every chance I get.”

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