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Simpson not dodging the past
Ex-Tide linebacker encourages queries from NFL scouts

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

MOBILE — Juwan Simpson isn't running away from his past.

Far from it, in fact.

In hotel rooms, in the hotel lobby, and in the Mobile Convention Center atrium, wherever, Simpson has learned to embrace his past and the troubles that haunted him following the gun and drug charges he faced following a traffic stop in Jefferson County on May 20.

He admits everything that happened was a mistake. But he's learned from it, and now he is doing his best to turn the negative experience into a positive.

"It's definitely come up (in interviews with NFL teams)," said Simpson, an Austin High grad and Alabama linebacker. "I look forward to it. I want that to be the first question to come up.

"I don't want to sit back and be all timid about the situation and hide and look like something was going on. I want to come straight out with it
and tell you. Talk to me. Get to know me."

Simpson is in Mobile, playing in the invitation-only Senior Bowl, a college all-star game that wants only NFL-caliber talent on the field.

Kind of funny considering Simpson, all 6-foot-2, 227 pounds of him, used to think the likeliest way he'd ever be drafted was by an NBA team, not an NFL franchise.

"I loved basketball," Simpson said. "You couldn't get me to play football. I played on the playground. I played a lot of that. But as far as organized football, I never played."

He says he had a jumper like Michael Jordan's. While we'll never know if that's true, we do know that he can cover the width of a football field quickly.

He played in 46 games for the Crimson Tide, finishing with 243 tackles, 18 of which were for a loss.

Statistically, he had his best season as a senior, ending with 86 stops (six for a loss), an interception, two caused fumbles and a career-high five pass breakups.

NFL Network analyst Charles Davis doesn't think, in the end, this past summer's off-field incident will hamper the River City native. Instead, it's those statistics and Simpson's ability to find the football that could lead him to NFL riches.

"The league is getting to the point, from my long view vision, it's not just about the stopwatch and the measurement," Davis said. "Does the guy make plays? Does he show up around the ball and makes something happen when he gets there?"

Davis added, "The off-the-field incident, they'll investigate it. But you know what, we have some guys running around this league, are you kidding me? He'll be OK."

But what could hurt him in the draft isn't his history. Instead, it's the bounty of talent at the position he's is projected to play in the pros, weak side linebacker.

"He's a (weak side) linebacker that has tremendous athletic ability," NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said. "He can get to the football from sideline to sideline. He fits in with a number of other athletes like that in this game, whether it's (Georgia's) Tony Taylor or (Florida's) Earl Everett."

Mayock said all are likely
to go somewhere in the third or fourth round, not that Simpson is worried about that right
now.

For the time being, he is just trying to ready himself for the other myriad of pre-draft events.

"I try not to pay attention t it," Simpson said. "I just try to come out and show these coaches I know how to play. Hopefully this week will help me out a lot."

Wherever he goes, Simpson knows he is prepared for the worst possible scenario.

"The whole college experience has turned me into a whole different guy," Simpson said. "I have a whole different view on a lot of different things because I've been through a lot. I don't wish that on anybody. It's unfortunate about the incident happening and my father passing, but I feel like I'm prepared for whatever is thrown my way."

One thing is for sure — Simpson knows his roots.

"I grew up in Decatur," Simpson said. "Been in Decatur all my life. Turned me into the athlete I was, playing in the playgrounds and the Boys and Girls Club. Hats off to Decatur."

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