WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: JOHN SIMPSON

He came to Baylor as a cornerback from Willowridge High School, and he eventually set his mark as one of Baylor's premiere two-sport athletes. His excellence on the field and on the track earned him awards, honors, and allowed him an opportunity to play in the NFL. Nearly 20 years since he left Baylor, John Simpson still has that competitive spirit. Come inside BearsIllustrated.com for more.

John Simpson was a two sport athlete at Baylor University in the mid to late 1980's. His athleticism allowed him to reach his goals, a coach perhaps gave him the best advice he ever received, and the competitiveness he endured at Baylor University is still alive and well.



As he looks back on it now, the highlights and memories flood his mind. He was just a kid coming out of Willowridge High School; a speed burner who also had the ability to catch the football. "My most memorable moment in football was in 1985 when we went to California and beat a highly ranked USC team at the Coliseum," Simpson says.

"Also, getting to play in a bowl game. It was my first bowl game, and we beat LSU. We were disrespected all week by the LSU team. They thought it was kind of a putdown to them that they had to play against this 'Baylor' team. Long story short, we put it to them, we won 21-7. We had a six man receiver rotation on each side; every three plays a receiver was rotating in. The good Lord was looking out for John Simpson that night. I had 3 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, and I was the offensive MVP."

With a competitive streak in his blood, Simpson took the advice of a high school coach in determining where he should attend college.

"My high school coach, Henry Henderson, urged me to go to Baylor because of the potential I had running the 400m. But I hated it, I couldn't stand it. When I got to Baylor, I was on a football scholarship, so I didn't feel like I had to go run the 400m. So, I excelled in the 100m and the 200m, various relays, and the long jump. I am just proud to have been a part of that program, even though I didn't run the 400m."

The dual-sport athlete competed in both track and football and was planning on wrapping up his collegiate career, until one play in 1987. Perhaps one play that changed his life.

"1987 was supposed to be my fourth year, my senior year. During that year, I hurt my knee near the last play against Missouri. It was a season ending injury, and I was granted a medical hardship. I was granted a fifth year. So I had all football season of 1987, and all of spring to think about, 'This might be the last time, if I even get back on the field, that I will ever suit up and play'."

With help from David Chandler and Mike Sims, both on Baylor staff, Simpson was able to get back on the football field without an ACL. Simpson explains, "That was unheard of back then. They didn't do that type of surgery in Waco back then."

"So, I decided that I was going to play every game like it was going to be my last game. I played hard, I practiced hard, and I got better at attending classes and actually trying. I realized that there might not be a career as a professional football player, so I played hard, and I studied hard."

John Simpson's goal of playing professional football got closer as he was drafted by the Chicago Bears, and Simpson admits that he had to re-evaluate his goals at that time.

"I bounced around between different leagues, and about three years later, Coach Teaff called me out of the blue one day and he said, 'Johnny, you need to come back to Baylor. You need to graduate."

Simpson did return to Baylor and worked on the strength staff for the 1991-1992 season. Simpson also graduated from Baylor earning a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree. Simpson immediately had the opportunity to not only coach football at nearby Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, but he also had the opportunity teach courses at the college level. Simpson later coached 3 years at the high school level where his students excelled on the track. Simpson coached track and football at a few other programs before deciding to hang up the whistle on his coaching duties.

"In 2002, I pitched the head coach my keys on July 1st, walked away from it, and have not regretted it since. It was just a different stage in my life. I was able to pursue my Master's degree in Educational Administration."

However, just because John Simpson walked away from coaching and is nearly 20 years removed from his glory days at Baylor University, it doesn't mean the 41 year old has lost his competitive spirit. In fact, Simpson is racing competitively once again. And once again he is dominating the competition.

"It all started during my days as a coach. We would have the dreaded 200 day on Mondays. I would make a deal with the kids, if they did the first 4, I would do the second 4 with them. I was able to beat all the kids running. I could beat all the kids until I came back to Corsicana. I had a student athlete named Daniel Manning, who now plays free safety for the Chicago Bears, and he is still about the only kid who can still beat me."

About 3 years ago, John Simpson attended an All-Comers meet in Dallas, not truly knowing what to expect. With his pair of long jumping shoes in one hand, he opened the eyes of a few on-lookers. Simpson returned the next week this time with his running shoes. Simpson competed in the 100m.



"It just reached that competitive spirit that I had been missing. Ever since then, every Spring I start training, eating right, and doing cardio. I actually am doing the old Clyde Hart workout. Now, I am doing Master's Track and Field. I have the USATF National Championship coming up in Maine, at the University of Maine. I am competing in the 100m, the 200m, a sprint relay, and believe it or not a 4x400m. I run with a club called Southwest Sprinters."

Simpson pays very close attention to his alma mater, and follows both the track and football teams at Baylor. Simpson shared these thoughts :

"I think the hiring of Coach Morriss was a good hire. We have yet to have a winning season, and we have yet to go to a bowl game, and I don't think it takes 5 years to do it. But, I do think he has the right staff now to make that happen. He has guys now that are pounding the concrete, knocking on coaches' office doors, looking at videotape, and they are doing what they have to do to be successful, and that is recruiting. This staff is young, energetic, and they have a bounce in their step. These are guys that are established recruiters, established coaches, and great people. They are going to fit into Baylor just absolutely perfectly."

John Simpson is a distant cousin of current Baylor linebackers coach, Gary Joe Kinne. Simpson explains that he is proud of Coach Kinne, the road he has taken to get where he is, and the fact that Coach Kinne is "a great, great family man."

Simpson thinks the game has changed since he last suited up for the green and gold.

"I would give my left arm to play in an offense like Baylor has now. You know, they got little fast inside receivers. It could have been a different life story for me. But when I was at Baylor, we had huge offensive linemen. All the 1st and 2nd team offensive linemen benched over 500 pounds and squatted over 700 pounds. It was unbelievable. We, of course, lined up with quarterback under center, had two backs and played some smash mouth football. I think Cody [Carlson] and Tom [Muecke], had success on play action and situational deals depending on defenses and tendencies, and we utilized our speed on the perimeter."

Times are a bit different for the former Baylor Bears football and track star. He has a wife of 18 years, Paula, and two children, Taylor, 15, and Paula, 11. If not on the track or at a Baylor home football game, Simpson is likely hanging out with his family. Taylor is currently a wide receiver/defensive back who has been timed running a 4.7 forty. While Simpson provides that Taylor has good hands and also competes on the track team as a hurdler, he also is quick to explain that his son is also a great student and a great musician.

"He will be successful in whatever he does. He works hard."

Looking back on the past 25 years of a successful collegiate and professional career in teaching and coaching leads to only one question. Where does Simpson see himself in 25 years?

"In 25 years, I am still going to be in education. Whether it is college or high school, I don't see myself getting out of education anytime soon. I want to come to Baylor in some capacity. Whether it is with the football program, track program, campus recruiting, or teaching, I want to be part of the Baylor bubble again. My wife would also like to teach at Baylor."

Simpson adds the following :

"In 25 years, if God can keep blessing me everyday, I will still be competing. I am going to run with it."

When asked if at age 66 his best event would be the 100m or the 200m, Simpson answered without missing a beat.

"I will probably do both."


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