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Erin Simon

Hero of the Game: Jake Simon, brother to defender Erin Simon

One of the newest members of the Dash’s defensive unit, Erin Simon has experienced quite an interesting journey to get to Houston. Simon missed her entire senior season in high school with an ACL tear, started all but six matches as a walk-on freshman at Syracuse University, and went undrafted after graduation, but earned a professional contract with Sky Blue FC through their open tryouts. The defender played for the FA Cup in Wembley Stadium against Manchester City during her time with West Ham United, her last stop prior to joining James Clarkson’s squad earlier this year, but throughout all those changes in her career, she has always had the love and support of one of her biggest heroes, her brother Jake.

Playing goalkeeper for his soccer team throughout high school, Jake has always been a role model to his younger sister, especially when they were growing up in Little Silver, New Jersey, and he was actually an integral part of Simon’s introduction to soccer.

“We have always been really close,” Simon said. “I started playing soccer in the rec program when I was about four or five years old because my brother started to play. I always wanted to play sports with him and hang out with him and his friends, and obviously, there were those high school teenage years where he rejected me as his sister to try and act cool, you know the sibling thing, but we were always close. In fact, my lucky number, which is also my favorite number, is three, because of two reasons. One, my role model growing up was Christie Pierce, who is the greatest defender probably to ever play for the U.S. Women’s National Team, and two, my brother liked the number three.”

After his graduation from high school though, Simon found an even deeper appreciation for her brother, as Jake not only became a volunteer firefighter, but also enlisted in the Navy. While stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, Jake went on two deployments on the U.S.S. Leyte Gulf, which is a guided missile cruiser, and it was after returning from his first deployment that Simon gained a new perspective on her brother.

“On Veterans Day after his first deployment, I realized that my brother was a veteran and was part of the wars that were going on and that he fought for our freedom and protection,” Simon recalled. “That is when I realized that he is only a year older than me, but he is doing all this for me and everyone in America, and I was a bit shocked. I do not think he thinks that way, but it dawned on me that he is a hero and just spent ten months overseas doing things to protect our country. It was probably in that moment that I really realized exactly what he was doing and how proud of him I was.”

Having now entered the Navy Reserves, Jake lives in Virginia, where he is still a firefighter, and was set to be honored as the Hero of the Game for the Houston Dash’s season opener on Saturday, April 25; however, COVID-19 altered those plans. Despite the inability to recognize him at BBVA Stadium, Simon is still grateful Jake is receiving acknowledgement for what he has done for his country and community.

“It means a lot to me, of course, because the military serve our country and people like me, and the rest of the world, so that we can be free” Simon explained. “They are fighting out there and risking their lives so that we can stay here and be free, so for them to willingly go out and risk their lives for others, it is just humbling to think there are people who would do that. For my brother to be one of those people, and my grandfather too, who was also in the Navy, and to honor them both with this sort of representation is just incredible.”

Now, Simon, like the rest of the world, is waiting to return to some form of normalcy when matches can be played, partially for the love of the game, but also so her and Jake can continue to bond over her professional career, with her brother acting as both one of her biggest fans and also her biggest critics.

“One of our biggest bonding points is soccer, and after every game, he gives me his FIFA or Audi rating of how I played that game,” Simon laughed. “He is very honest with me about things I need to work on, and he makes sure to tell me when I am bad, but he also tells me when I am good. He even tells me what I should have done better, and why he is giving me that rating, but he means no harm at all. He is just really excited about my career and what I am doing, and knows I have a high potential. He is just being a good brother.”

Despite everything going on right now and all the changes to normal routines, Simon knows there is one thing that will never change: her admiration for her brother.

“He has done so much for the community and people he does not even know, and I do not think he realizes what all he has done, but in my eyes he is risking his life in all these dangerous situations, whether it be in the Navy or as a firefighter, for the good of other people, which just makes him awesome,” Simon said. “I mean he even received a Medal of Valor in 2012 for saving a woman’s life in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy. Honestly, it all makes me think he might also be a little crazy, but there is no doubt that he is definitely my hero.”

 

Photos courtesy of Erin Simon

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