Tim Simpson Gives Back To Players, Alma Mater

A number of former Illini football players are now coaching, either for a living or as volunteers. Former line star and weight lifting champ Tim Simpson has a full time job, but he volunteers his time for Morton High School. He recently helped the Illini coach some of their summer camps, and he's excited about the future of the Illinois program.

Tim Simpson earned four letters as an offensive guard for the Illinois football team from 1988-1991 and was named a team captain in 1991. He is one of the few former Illini to claim participation in bowl games all four years. And he was the team's strongest member.

He has found post-graduate satisfaction by combining a career with volunteer work.

"I work for Caterpillar. I work at the logistics division in Morton, so I do process standards, process engineering and process improvements.

"And I've been with Morton High School almost 20 years now. I'm a volunteer assistant coach there. We've got a great program going on, and I help with their weight lifting and their offensive and defensive linemen."

Simpson met up with Illini coaches at a couple summer camps recently.

"I appreciate the fact the Morton program also allows me to come and coach these kids (summer campers) too."

One of those camps was the second lineman camp on campus, where he had a chance to admire the large football-only weight room. Once the strongest Illini player of all time, he has gotten significantly stronger since then.

"This is great. Dave Diehl did a lot of work to help get this thing going. One thing I still do is, I get heavily involved with the lifting. I enter Strongman contests; it's silly. As part of our fundraiser, we're doing a 225 lift with three of us coaches. My goal is to get 48 reps; I did 28 when I was in college. So I'm a little stronger now."

He may be stronger, but running isn't as easy as it once was.

"I still run with the kids. It just takes about three weeks to recover now."

There has been a great deal of improvement in the overall football environment since Simpson graduated.

"I think the facilities are incredible. Look at all the time and effort that's been put into it. It's really nice to see some of the history that we've got, when you go back to the Red Granges and Al Broskys.

"We come back every spring. It's a great environment. For me working full-time in the 'real world,' it gives me a chance to connect again.

"Al left us, so I no longer have a chance to talk with the NCAA interceptions leader. But it's a great thing to be a part of a history like this. Meet the Ed O'Bradoviches and others.

"When Coach (John) Mackovic was here, we had our 100 year celebration. He would bring back folks from the past. You learn it is not just a place to play football but a place to develop relationships. It's a family that lasts for a life."

Simpson was an Illini fan long before he attended the school.

"I have my t-shirt from 1983 when we beat every other Big 10 team. We were the only school to beat every one in a season. I still have my Coke can and Pepsi bottle from the Rose Bowl year."

As a lifelong Illini, he understands what it takes to support the program regardless of its ups and downs.

"Through thick or thin, stay true to the school. We've got a lot of alumni that are excited about the new way the program's going. They feel very welcome at the facilities. If we have athletes that we know of, this is a great place to be."

Simpson was pleased to see the recent Illini Caravan travel all over the state of Illinois to increase interest in the athletic programs at their state school.

"The Caravan came down to East Peoria. That is great we are getting back out into the state. We have a lot of great talent. I think a lot of people know about Illinois football, but they don't know about it like when I was a kid."

Simpson is doing his part to attract more athletes to the game of football. Among his goals is to see more central Illinois athletes good enough to play for the Illini.

"In the 1990's it was basketball. As folks understand what are the inputs to become a Division-1 athlete, it's not only lifting weights. It's running, it's being a good member of society, it's going to school."

Morton is among the schools on an upward progression.

"Morton looks great. We are returning a lot of our team. We have a quarterback with D-1 potential. But what we're developing more now is our team synergies: 12-14 kids coming to the line camp. 14 kids coming to 7-on-7 camp. It's starting to build, and kids understand that we've got to be together to get this thing done."

Does Simpson have any sons coming up in the near future as possible Illini recruits?

"Right now, my oldest is a freshman coming through. Interesting enough, he plays quarterback. He doesn't have my body build, but he's got the heart of a tiger."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories