But in the end, when it came time to decide, the lure of the Southeastern Conference was too much to turn aside.
“When I committed there, I loved the campus, I felt comfortable over there,” Simpson said Wednesday. “I went over there three times and during those visits I fell in love with it. It’s everything that I was looking for in a college. And it’s on that big stage.”
Following a visit to Oxford by Mississippi State recruiting coordinator Geoff Collins, Simpson’s nearly fully healed ACL that was torn in November came back to haunt the defensive end.
“They were going to have to grayshirt me because of the knee injury,” Simpson said. “He told me if it wasn’t for the knee injury, then we wouldn’t even be talking about it.
“It’s just going to make me work that much harder to get back and get to where I can get back in January and compete for a starting job.”
Taking a grayshirt means the player is not on scholarship and is not allowed to do anything with the team. With that becoming a reality for Simpson in the fall, one school that really caught his eye as another option was Jacksonville State.
Simpson took his time with the decision, not finalizing it until Monday night. After finishing his senior season with 37 tackles, 14 for a loss, nine sacks and two fumbles, he had to choose between playing football and baseball for the Gamecocks, including for his former football head coach John Grass, or playing two in the SEC.
“With coach Grass and coach (Chuck) Dunn, I felt comfortable with that coaching staff,” Simpson said. “It would have been stupid on my part to have not looked at it and see what I thought about it.”
Sticking with Mississippi State and making things official is not the closing chapter of Simpson’s career at Oxford. The first baseman and defending Class 6A state champion Yellow Jackets start baseball season on Feb. 18.
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.