The rising senior defensive end also stars for the Yellow Jackets’ baseball team and wanted a school where playing baseball was an option.
Too, State, an SEC school, was the biggest school that cared the most the earliest.
“They were one of the first schools to start recruiting me,” he said. “That was the first school that I really started looking at and getting online and stuff like that.
“And then they came at me pretty hard, so I went to the spring game. They made me feel like I was at home.”
Still, add Simpson to the encyclopedia of recruiting experiences gathering at Oxford and benefitting Oxford athletes to come.
Simpson became the ninth player from Oxford’s 2011 Class 6A semifinal football team to sign scholarship papers to play the sport in college.
Assuming Simpson signs with State, he’ll be the third member of that Oxford team to sign with an SEC school. He would join linebacker Kwon Alexander (LSU) and athlete Trae Elston (Ole Miss).
Two other recent Oxford players are in the SEC, Vanderbilt defensive tackle Jared Morse and Tennessee defensive tackle Allan Carson.
Simpson’s older brother, Tucker, MVP of Oxford’s run to the 6A baseball title this spring, will also be an SEC athlete. The newly minted graduate is already on Florida’s campus.
Other seniors from Oxford’s championship baseball teams were SEC recruits. Mathew Goodson and Jackson Stephens signed with Alabama, though Stephens wound up signing a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds.
Same for senior Zach Lovvorn, who had signed with Samford but went pro after being drafted by the Kansas City Royals.
Oxford’s baseball team produced 10 college signees.
The gamut of recent Oxford recruiting experiences includes players who chose colleges big and small.
It includes highly publicized prospects like Alexander, considered one of the nation’s top prospects at his position.
It also includes Dez Swink, who vowed on signing day to make the most of his one offer, from Coahoma (Miss.) Community College.
There are stories of players like Tucker Simpson and football player Michael Flint, both having committed early and changed their minds. Tucker Simpson switched from Georgia Tech to Florida and Flint from Auburn to Arkansas State.
There’s Elston, who waited to the last to announce. He fought through some drama before making an 11th-hour switch from an unpublicized, soft commitment to LSU to signing with Ole Miss.
Alexander, having watched the 2011 meltdowns surrounding flips from major prospects like Cyrus Kouandjio and Brent Calloway, did exactly what he said he would do. He made his decision about a month out then keep quiet until signing day.
Other Oxford players register on recruiting radars. Expect lots of headlines about running back Racean Thomas and defensive lineman Ulric Jones in the coming months.
All of these players compare notes on their recruiting experiences. Trent Simpson certainly did.
“With guys like Allan Carson, Kwon, Trae, Michael Flint, those are guys I grew up with and talk to, especially Allan Carson, playing the same position I played,” he said. “He was probably the most influential person on the football field to me, when I first started playing with the varsity.
“I tried to learn a little bit from their recruiting process, but I didn’t want to do mine exactly like theirs. I’d ask them questions, just simple stuff about their visits and how stuff like that went and what to expect.”
Of course, Trent Simpson had a wealth of information in his own house. Tucker Simpson was a major baseball prospect.
“I can tell you his brother’s process greatly influenced his process,” said Mike Simpson, their father. “As you would imagine, being in the same household, him getting to experience exactly what his brother went through, influenced his decision-making process.
“He had a shortened learning curve because having leaned on a brother who went through that, and he’s leaned on some of these other football guys that just went through a lot last year.”
What was the takeaway from watching so many players go through the recruiting process?
“The biggest thing is, it’s about you,” Mike Simpson said. “Just find a place where you’re comfortable. You’ve got to find that place for you, and it’s not going to be the same for everybody.”
For Trent Simpson, the option to play two sports was a factor.
The 6-foot-5- 240-pounder has a natural frame for defensive end and first base. He’s a three-year starter in baseball with a career .310 batting average, and he hit key hits in the final two rounds of Oxford’s playoff run.
Mississippi State, Jacksonville State, Samford, South Alabama and UAB were among schools who expressed willingness to accommodate Trent Simpson’s desire to possibly play both sports.
“He did communicate that, and some schools approached him about it,” Mike Simpson said. “That decision (whether to play both sports in college) has still not been made definitively, but the schools that offered both offered more options.”
Beyond a school choice, one of the biggest decisions some Oxford players faced was whether to commit early. Trent Simpson did, announcing his choice on July 27 before his senior year.
“Trent has always been a straight-forward guy,” Mike Simpsons said. “I think he just wanted to get it over with so he can focus on being the very best teammate, the very best football player he can be and help this team this year win as many games as they can.”
Though other Oxford players who committed early changed their minds, Trent Simpson said his choice is firm.
Count Oxford football coach John Grass a proponent of committing early. After watching the drama players like Elston went through, Grass said on national signing day that he would encourage players to commit early in the future.
Grass reiterated that after Trent Simpson’s announcement, saying most players benefit from reserving their spots before colleges get approach the limits of their scholarships and position needs.
“Just being a five-star guy the way Kwon was, everybody’s got a scholarship for him,” Grass said. “Not everybody, in the end, is like that.
“It’s just better to get it out of the way, as soon as you are comfortable with a place and you know that’s where you want to be going.”