Mississippi State had wanted the two-sport Oxford High star to delay enrollment and begin school in December, which meant he would count against next year’s scholarship allotment. Simpson had planned for a scaled-back summer workout regimen designed to have him in the best shape possible when he reported to Mississippi State in December.
Those plans changed Wednesday when MSU officials confirmed the possibility they hinted at three weeks earlier that a spot might open for him to join the Bulldogs’ football team in August.
He leaves for Starkville on July 8.
“That call was a dream come true,” Simpson said Thursday. “I was going to run and work out as much as I could, but I just had everything kind of scaled back so when December got here I could be in the best shape I could be in.
“It was probably three weeks ago that there was a chance I was going to come early. The plan was to come in December but hope for July. I said that sounded good, I hope it works out. Then I found out yesterday morning I was coming for sure.”
The grey shirt found its way into Simpson’s laundry to give the 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end more time to recover from knee surgery. He tore his left ACL during a Game 9 loss to Pell City. He reported his rehab was going “better and better” and the roster spot opened up when Bulldogs signee Cord Sandberg, a high school quarterback and center fielder from Manatee, Fla., signed with the Phillies after going in the third round of the major league baseball draft.
“I got released at 3 1/2 months and got to play almost all of the baseball season and that really impressed them,” Simpson said. “Once they found out I was doing really good with the knee surgery, they started looking for a way to get me to come early. When (Sandberg) got drafted, it opened up a scholarship for me.”
The grey shirt may be off, but there’s still a possibility Simpson could be redshirted. At least now, he’ll be able to get accustomed to the football load before baseball begins -- and he remains committed to playing both.
He made the Class 6A all-state team as a designated hitter. He hit .420 with 10 home runs, including three in the first game of the 6A playoffs. The MSU baseball team just finished second in the College World Series.
“I can’t wait to get there,” he said. “It’s going to be better for me. I can go ahead and get there and learn the defense and get in that weight program and get to where I need to be. Right now, the way it’s looking, I’m going to go in there and have to compete and they’ll see how everything goes.
“Honestly, I’d love to get to play as a freshman even if I could get on the field a little bit but I think a redshirt might work out better because it could get my knee healthier.”
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.