Corey Simon might be new to politics, but he’s not new to the spotlight. The newly elected Republican State Senator is well-known for his athletic exploits on the football field, where he won a national championship with the Florida State Seminoles and earned Pro-Bowl honors with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. But what many don’t know about him is that winning championships and accolades aren’t the things he looks back on with any particular fondness.
“I’m a process driven person,” Simon explains. “The prize is never the end result for me. It’s not the thing I look back on. For me, it’s always been about the journey and not the destination.”
The relationships with coaches and teammates that he built during his years as a Seminole and in the NFL, combined with the process of identifying a goal and putting in the work to achieve it are what motivates him and provides him with the most satisfaction.
And, says Simon, his political legacy will be the same way. He takes little satisfaction from winning a hotly contested election last month against incumbent Democrat Loranne Ausley, because for him, the work has only just begun.
“Winning a national championship with Florida State, I don’t even remember the day of winning,” he says. “I remember practices, I remember my teammates, but I don’t revel in the events of the game. I embrace the process of getting there. I went into that season every single day trying to do my absolute best, and that’s where my satisfaction comes from.”
Simon says he’ll bring that same work ethic to his new job representing the constituents of Senate District 3, which covers 13 sprawling counties, including Leon. The rest, all in Florida’s Panhandle are mostly rural, but no less important. They span from Gulf, Liberty and Gadsden in the west, to Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette and Dixie in the east.
With his football legacy sealed, Simon pauses when asked about what he hopes his political legacy will be whenever it comes to its inevitable end.
“I want to do my best every single day to help the folks I serve. I will remember who I am, who I came into the process as,” he says. “And I will always be Corey, whatever the prefix is before Corey. I have to be able to look back on this and remain true to the character that I came into this with, and I want to be a good steward of the trust placed in me.”
As the first Black Republican to serve in the State Senate since Reconstruction, Simon has already taken advantage of one opportunity that few other Republicans get: an invitation to join the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. By default the domain of Black Democrat lawmakers, Simon accepted the invitation extended to him from Democrat Senator Darryl Rouson.
“I don’t know if I accepted that invitation out of naivety or if it’s because I just believe you need to be in every room,” Simon says, “But folks are tired of politicians just standing stubbornly in our ideological corners. Having a difference of opinion is not a bad thing.”
Likening the party differences to a football locker room, Simon believes that looking people in the eye and having a dialogue about differences can lead to positive outcomes. In football, he says, everyone knew the goal was to win, but there are always a lot of different ideas on how to get there.
“Sitting in a room with people who don’t agree with me is not a bad thing,” he says. “I’m extraordinarily comfortable. Finding a way to get to common ground? That’s every locker room I’ve ever been in. You have to define an objective and then work together to figure out how to achieve it.”
Asked what made him embrace conservative political ideals, Simon credits watching his grandmother clean houses, day in and day out, for decades. At the same time, his grandfather demonstrated the same work ethic as a janitor, while also running his own lawn service. And at the core of conservative values is the idea that work is dignified, and it’s how families can improve their economic situation.
“You have to work for the things that you want,” he says. “There’s nothing embarrassing about blue collar work. Those are things I learned early on from a policy standpoint. And that’s where I fit. Hard work is where the opportunities are.”
Away from the state capitol, Simon stays busy in his role as FSU’s Director of Athlete Alumni Engagement and Development. In that role, his mission is to make sure the current crop of Seminole athletes are sold on the same vision that attracted him to Florida State nearly three decades earlier: being a Seminole is not a four year experience, but 40-year journey. He works to get former athletes to re-engage with the Seminole program, connecting them with the alumni base.
When it comes to his new role as a state senator, he plans to bring that same long-term vision.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am exactly what you see,” says Simon. “At the end of the day, I’ve got 39 other teammates. And we all have the same objective, and that’s for families, for our state, to win. We have different opinions for how we win, but the win is what’s important.”
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