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Top MAC Football Players of 2013: #24, Johnnie Simon, Western Michigan SS

Western Michigan safety Johnnie Simon has come a long way to land in Kalamazoo.

Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, I feel Western Michigan safety Johnnie Simon is okay with his spot on our countdown. In fact, I'd go as far as saying Simon might be the best story in the Mid-American Conference.

Simon was born in the Bahamas, moved to Haiti and battled with poverty for the first six years of his life before moving to Florida with his younger brother who has cerebral palsy to meet his biological parents for the first time. Through football, Simon is now on the path to a degree and maybe even the NFL.

As an under-the-radar prospect from West Palm Beach, Fla., Simon signed to Western Michigan in 2009 passing on offers from BCS schools like Wake Forest and Syracuse. He was ready to play the moment he stepped on campus seeing action in 12 games his freshman season accumulating 22 tackles, two pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

Simon exploded in 2011 earning Second Team All-MAC honors after a season where he recorded a team-high 114 tackles, 10.5 of which went for a loss. He was a menace for opposing quarterbacks, sacking them 3.5 times and picking them off twice with seven pass break-ups.

His achievements during his sophomore season earned him a spot on the 2012 Thorpe Award Watch List. During his junior year, he amassed 104 tackles, including 18 against Illinois, with an interception and three pass break-ups. After the season he was named Third Team All-MAC.

According to an interview with MLive, Simon is focused on getting his degree with an interest in becoming a sports broadcaster. Another path he could travel down is the one that leads to the NFL where he looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow Caribbean-native and Western Michigan Bronco, Louis Delmas.

Simon and the Broncos kick off their season in East Lansing taking on Michigan State on Aug. 30.