Back up on the horse

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

For the past couple of years, Ken Simonton dabbled in several different jobs but none were as much fun as his old one.

He was a substitute teacher, spent time counselling kids at a non-profit organization and even sold insurance.

Yet it was his connection to his former agent that led the Oregon State star back to football.

"I was retired. Done. I had no intentions of coming back," said the new Calgary Stampeders running back. "I kept a great relationship with my agent and did some recruiting for him. We were in a hotel room and he asked if I missed it. I said, 'Naw.'

"I missed the paycheque and camaraderie. He asked if I could still do it and I said, 'Heck ya.'

"He called Jim Barker an hour later and we were talking with him."

Simonton signed a free-agent deal and his comeback is almost complete. He has made the first step and survived training camp, during which he was slow to get back into game shape.

But in the final pre-season game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Simonton zipped open and caught a nice touchdown pass from quarterback Akili Smith, who used to play for his college rival, Oregon.

Now that he's on the team, the past few days have been a whirlwind for Simonton as he tries to secure a place to live and arrange for his pregnant wife, Kolette, to move up from Oakley, Calif.

"We're trying to do it with minimal stress," said the 28-year-old father to be.

"The toughest part was being apart. I'm not a big 'I miss you' type of guy so when she hears it, she knows I mean it. The only real stress for me was me coming up here and her trying to close up all those affairs by herself but she's more than capable.

"As an athlete, I had faith this was a good situation for me. I always knew I could help this team, I just needed a chance to show it."

Simonton quit football in 2005, leaving the Detroit Lions during training camp.

At Oregon State, Simonton set a school-record 5,044 rushing yards and 59 touchdowns while placing ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting and even getting on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

He wasn't drafted but signed with San Francisco in 2002. He bounced to Buffalo, which sent him to Scotland and NFL Europe, before he returned to the 49ers and finally to Detroit in '05.

The biggest reason for leaving was the unpleasantness of moving from job to job, chasing roster spots. So even though he comes to the Stampeders as a backup to star Joffrey Reynolds, Simonton liked what Barker told him when trying to sell him on the CFL.

"The thing he said that made the most difference was this game is made for me," Simonton said. "He said I would have fun. After two years away, that sounded nice. I can take care of my family and play, so that's a bonus.

"And my worst day here is better than my best days in other jobs."


Photos