By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The pupil sought assistance from the teacher eager to get back into football.
Analy coach Dan Bourdon figured mentor Keith Simons could confer wisdom cultivated over three decades crafting prolific offenses.
Stepping down following 17 seasons leading Santa Rosa Junior College football, Simons remained restless. Healthy again after another hip replacement, Simons welcomed the opportunity to pass on his passion for the game.
“I’m not ready to quit coaching yet. I needed to do it,” Simons said. “This is a fun level and I’m having a great time.”
Read about his legacy at SRJC here
Their roles reversed — Bourdon was a Bear Cubs quarterback for Simons — the pair shares considerable enthusiasm for high-scoring football.
“You coach what you know. He’s the guy that taught me,” Bourdon said. “Keith helps make our offense stronger.”
Brought on as an offensive consultant and quarterbacks coach, Simons enjoys teaching prep players. While weaned on the spread offense in Bourdon’s program, Analy quarterbacks and their teammates are picking up finer points of the quick-hitting attack.
“They’ve been really receptive and made great improvements,” Simons said. “I’m getting into it a little bit more than I planned on. You just get more invested in the players and the coaches and the success of the program.”
Analy runs an offense mirroring SRJC under Simons. Going with four receivers in a variety of sets and one running back, the design spreads out defenses, creating openings to potentially gain yards in long stretches.
Fast tempo is an important element, so Analy doesn’t huddle before plays. Equally imperative is quick decision-making with quarterbacks rapidly progressing through two and three reads before delivering the ball.
“You want to spread the defense out and get the ball into the hands of your playmakers in space to make plays,” Simons said. “They’ve got to be able to think fast and get the ball to the right guy.”
Helping tutor both a first-year starting quarterback and a backup playing significant minutes has been rewarding for Simons.
Jacob Royer and Will Smith are next in a long line of quarterbacks Simons has instilled his fervor for the spread offense.
“Both guys are going to be playing in most games. It’s a very healthy competition,” Simons said. “We’re fortunate that we’ve got two really great quarterbacks.”
Come game time, Simons settles into an unfamiliar perch in press boxes overlooking playing fields. Simons is accustomed to the sidelines where he would direct the offense and confer with quarterbacks.
“It’s different. You’re removed from the action and the field,” Simons said. “But I’m feeling more comfortable up there.”
The reason Simons is back up high is to survey opposing defenses and help call plays when Analy has the football
The last season Simons coached from the press box was 25 years ago as a graduate assistant for Humboldt State.
Analy’s season opener reminded Simons how close he is to students and parents from the press box.
“You get caught up in the intensity,” he said. “I’ve got to cool it. I’ve got to watch what I say.”
Still, he doesn’t miss running a football program.
“It’s a different pace,” Simons said. “I was ready to step away from that. That hasn’t been a problem at all.”
Assisting suits Simons, who noted Bourdon is among the Empire’s best.
“He’s run a similar system and I wanted to get in on that,” Simons said. “We work real good together. Dan’s real sharp.”
Just a decade removed from college ball, Bourdon is a competitor who thinks like the quarterback he was at Analy, SRJC and West Virginia Tech. Bringing on Simons is about helping Analy win football games.
“It’s been really smooth so far,” Bourdon said. “He’s a great addition.”
Simons wants to stick around for at least another season. After left-hip replacement surgery five months ago — his right hip was done earlier — Simons feels good.
Still teaching physical education and kinesiology at SRJC, the 54-year-old longtime coach has found a new niche to stay in the game.
“It’s something new. I’m enjoying it a lot,” Simons said.