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    MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2007
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    Wearing an O.J. Simpson No. 32 Buffalo Bills classic jersey, Austin High graduate Juwan Simpson, with his mother, Mary Simpson, receives a call from the Green Bay Packers offering him a two-year, free-agent contract. After watching the NFL draft for two days and not hearing his name called, the Austin High graduate agreed to a deal with the Packers after the last round.
    Daily photo by John Godbey
    Wearing an O.J. Simpson No. 32 Buffalo Bills classic jersey, Austin High graduate Juwan Simpson, with his mother, Mary Simpson, receives a call from the Green Bay Packers offering him a two-year, free-agent contract. After watching the NFL draft for two days and not hearing his name called, the Austin High graduate agreed to a deal with the Packers after the last round.

    The call finally comes
    Simpson, Packers agree
    to free-agent deal

    By Josh Cooper
    jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

    The official call came at 5:19 p.m.

    That was an hour or two later than former Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson was hoping for, but at least it came.

    On the other end of the line was a Green Bay Packers representative, asking Simpson to accept the team's free-agent offer, which he did.

    This weekend's NFL draft covered 18 hours over two days, seven rounds and 255 picks, and Simpson didn't hear his name called once. But after a sometimes playful, sometimes painful Saturday and Sunday of sitting his mother's backyard in Decatur, watching pick after pick of the draft come and go, the Austin High grad has landed with an NFL team. He will head to Wisconsin on Thursday.

    "Well, at the end of the day I am happy," Simpson said. "Green Bay is a great place and has a great tradition, and I feel like it is a great place for me to be."

    When the fourth round of the draft started, Sunday's all-day sit-fest began with Simpson staring at the TV and cracking some jokes, but still appearing solemn and serious.

    At the beginning of the fifth round, Simpson and his family and friends went dead silent.

    As linebackers from Division I schools much less renowned than Alabama kept getting taken, Simpson — clad in an O.J. Simpson No. 32 Buffalo Bills classic jersey — couldn't take it anymore.

    He got up and walked to his car with his friend John Scott, a former teammate at Austin and a defensive lineman at Jacksonville State. Simpson and Scott drove around the neighborhood, blaring rapper Lil Wayne on the stereo, not caring if he couldn't hear his phone going off.

    Simpson had three phones just for that day — his normal cell phone, a "business" phone and a "draft" phone.

    "It was dreadful," Simpson said. "Just feeling like you are better than what is shown in terms of not being drafted."

    One of Simpson's phones rang in the seventh round. It was the Packers, telling him they were interested in him.

    At that point, Simpson's demeanor changed. He went from somber to relaxed. He knew that someone out there wanted him, and that someone felt he belonged in the NFL.

    "That's a big relief to see that somebody was looking," Simpson joked.

    While the weather might be a little cold — Simpson said he had seen snow only about four times — Green Bay is in need of young, athletic linebackers.

    A.J. Hawk, a 2006 first-round pick, is considered a stalwart at linebacker for the Packers. So is 2003 first-round pick Nick Barnett. Brady Poppinga started last season, but he is considered the weak link in Green Bay's linebacking corps.

    In the sixth round Sunday, the Packers had two picks and chose linebackers Desmond Bishop of Cal and Korey Hall of Boise State.

    Simpson will receive a signing bonus and a two-year contract. Simpson didn't disclose the worth of either.

    "I feel like I'm in a good position to play there," Simpson said. "You have to learn the playbook and be consistent day in and day out."

    Helping Simpson and his transition will be Packers safety Charlie Peprah, who played with Simpson at Alabama.

    Ironically, Peprah was in North Alabama for a charity event Saturday and sat with Simpson through part of the draft's first day of action.

    "I think he made a great choice (to come to Green Bay)," said Peprah, who flew back to Green Bay on Sunday. "He is one of the best athletes I have played with. We like speed at linebacker, and he has both speed and toughness. The sky is the limit for him."

    Tide, Tigers and the draft

    Players are listed with name, round taken and NFL team.

    Alabama

  • Le’Ron McClain, 4th, Ravens

  • Ken Darby, 7th, Buccaneers

  • RamzeeRobinson, 7th, Lions

  • Juwan Simpson, undrafted, signed as free agent with Packers

    Auburn

  • Ben Grubbs, 1st, Ravens

  • KennyIrons, 2nd, Bengals

  • Will Herring, 5th, Seahawks

  • Courtney Taylor, 6th, Seahawks

  • DavidIrons, 6th, Falcons

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