Maurice Simba’s Football Journey

A Top 20 Prospect for This Year’s CFL Draft, Maurice Simba Is a Gentle Giant

Simba blocks a McGill pass rush. Photo Elisa Barbier

Hailing from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Concordia’s offensive lineman Maurice Simba’s story is unique.

“I came to Canada six years ago,” said Simba. “My parents have been here for 21 years. I was back home with my grandparents and my uncle. So far, it’s a good experience in Canada. I love the city of Montreal. As a big guy, I love winter. It’s one of my favourite things. I love winter and I love poutine!”

Listed at an imposing six feet, eight inches tall and over 320 pounds, Simba is anything but a small man.

“Massive,” said head coach Brad Collinson when asked to describe his fourth-year player in a single word. “You can’t teach size. There are some good offensive linemen in this country and Maurice is one of them.”

Starting his football career in CEGEP, Simba is a late-bloomer as Collinson puts it. While many of his teammates have been taking the field since they were children, he’s only been playing football for the last six years.

“He didn’t play football before,” said Collinson. “He wants to learn each and every day because he knows he has to catch up. It’s pretty impressive how far he’s come. From where he started [compared] to today, it’s night and day.”

Simba is well aware that he’s still got plenty to learn about football. The lineman refuses to rest on his laurels, noting that each new week and opponent bring a new challenge and the chance to learn as a player.

His constant strive for improvement has paid dividends. At the start of the season, he was projected among the top 20 eligible players for the upcoming Canadian Football League draft.

“Honestly, I was surprised,” said Simba. “When I started playing six years ago in CEGEP, I was on the practice squad. During my first year at Concordia, I never played. For me, it’s the school that is top 20. I wouldn’t be there if my coaches didn’t push me. After me, I want [scouts] to keep looking at this program. It’s not just me. I’m proud of us.”

Simba may have been shocked, but his work on the field certainly stands out and shows why he is ranked fifth-highest among offensive linemen for the upcoming CFL draft. In fact he is second in terms of Canadian universities specifically.

Last season, Simba was a key player on a dominant offensive line. The Stingers allowed the fewest quarterback sacks of any team in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec with just 12.

The line allowed less than 100 total yards lost to those sacks, one of only two teams to do so. On top of that, the line was instrumental in creating space that gave running back Jean-Guy Rimpel the division lead in rushing yards with 708, more than double the yardage of the next highest player.

It’s not particularly surprising that his name has garnered CFL attention.

“He doesn’t just fill the room with his size, he fills the room the room with his presence. When he speaks, people like to listen.” — Matt Halbgewachs

Being humble comes naturally to Simba. But he’s still able to reflect on what allowed him to rise the ranks to become one of the best linemen in the country.

“Every single game, I go see the guy I’m going to play against and talk with him a bit,” said Simba. “But during those 60 minutes [of play], I’m not laughing. At the end of the game, I take off my helmet and then I tell them good job. It’s all about being humble and not talking too much.”

Aside from his on-field prowess, kindness is Simba’s most striking quality according to his teammates. His infectious positivity and joie de vivre made him a natural leader for this Stinger’s squad.

“He doesn’t just fill the room with his size, he fills the room with his presence,” said teammate Matt Halbgewachs. “When he speaks, people like to listen. He’s a goofy guy. His personality matches his stature.”
Simba understands the importance of keeping up the morale for his team. Most of all, he realizes young players are looking up to him.

Simba said that he likes to “bring good vibes” to the team. It’s not an easy job that the players have and can take its toll mentally and physically; he does his best to keep the locker room positive.

While he’s flying high in the sport now, earning all-star nominations and CFL attention, football wasn’t always the plan for Simba. Initially, the DRC native believed he was going to make a career as a plumber.

It was Simba’s uncle that pushed him into the world of sports when he came to Canada. The RSEQ all-star wasn’t particularly thrilled to be entering the world that may soon become his livelihood.

“I didn’t like it too much, but from where I come from in Africa, when a family member tells you ‘You are going to do something,’ you do it,” said the fourth year Stinger. “He helped me, without him knowing, making the best decision of my life. Football has brought a lot of good things in my life. I owe [my uncle] a lot.”

it’s evident that family is an important part of Simba’s life.

“Family is huge for Maurice,” said Halbgewachs. “I don’t know how to explain it, but he makes it clear. Before games he’s asking guys if they have extra tickets because part of his family is coming. He makes time for his family.”

Some of Simba’s family members are still in Africa and he expressed that they are what he misses most from his life in the DRC.

“I lived with my grandparents for 18 years,” said Simba. “I miss them a lot. Every time I get the chance to go over there for two weeks, I cannot wait. I jump on the boat and go see them.”

Even though he misses home, Simba is grateful for his mother who gave him the chance to come to Canada and have a new life.

“She is my number one role model,” said Simba. “She’s been through a lot. She did everything she could to give me a better life.”

His unique background allows him to bring a different insight to his teammates in the locker room. On occasions, Simba would remind his teammates of the luck they had growing up in a country where healthcare is free. He also reminds them that getting a meal whenever you want, any kind of meal, is a luxury.

“He brings that diversity and that cultural change,” said Halbgewachs. “It mixes it all together and he’s one of the best guys to be around in the locker room. I like Maurice for who he is.”

Even though he might become a professional football player in the coming months, Simba knows that academics have to be a priority.

The Stinger knows that his football career will not last forever. Although he struggled academically early on in his time at Concordia, Simba was able to turn his academic standing around. His coaches made sure to let him know that scouts would be willing to respect and encourage his desire to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Simba is currently in his second year of Concordia’s religion program. A program he discovered through the help of the team’s former academic counsellor.

“I wanted to go to [John Molson School of Business],” said Simba. “But I realized that an office job was not really something I was passionate about. I also started thinking that maybe I can be a football coach one day. By having my religion science degree it’s still kind of the same. Most of my coaches have a religion science degree.”

In the end, apart from football, school, and expectations, Simba is a man with a simple goal and desire for his life and how he wants to be remembered.

“I want to have helped people as much as I could.”