Clemson freshman linebacker Trenton Simpson remembers attending games at Death Valley as a youngster and watching former Tiger defensive end and fellow Peach State native Corey Crawford play.
According to Simpson, Crawford had a big influence on his life growing up and was one of the reasons he ended up following in Crawford’s footsteps and becoming a Tiger himself.
“Corey Crawford was like a big brother to me,” Simpson said. “I used to come watch him play when I was younger. He’s from Columbus, Georgia, where I’m from. So, I would always go watch him play as a younger kid.”
On Saturday, it was Simpson who played in his first career game at Death Valley after signing with Clemson last December.
The former five-star prospect said Crawford – who amassed 155 tackles, including 25.5 for loss and six sacks, in 51 career games (35 starts) for the Tigers from 2011-14 – gave him some advice as he got ready for his freshman season this year.
“He just said come up here and take advantage of every opportunity I get and when I get out there and my number is called, just have to make a play,” Simpson said. “He said that’s all he did when he was here is make plays when his number was called.”
Simpson indeed made a play during No. 1 Clemson’s 49-0 shutout of The Citadel on Saturday, shooting off the edge to bring down Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Rainey for his first college sack in the second quarter.
Making the big play even sweeter for Simpson was the fact that his family, including his mother, was in the stands to witness his Death Valley debut.
The official Clemson Football Twitter account posted a video of Simpson’s sack that showed his mother’s reaction to it as she held a cardboard cutout with her son’s smiling face on it.
“It was a great feeling, just knowing all my family was there and I was able to make a play,” Simpson said. “My mom has always been my biggest fan. She’s always there to hype me up and encourage me. So, for me to make a play and for her to be able to see it was just the best feeling ever.”
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) September 20, 2020
Simpson spent a good chunk of his childhood living in Columbus, Georgia, while his father was stationed at nearby Fort Benning. The family later moved to North Carolina, and the summer before his senior year at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, Simpson verbally committed to play his college ball at Auburn before reopening his recruitment in October 2019.
Clemson eventually came calling with a scholarship offer four days before the start of the early signing period on Dec. 18. It was the opportunity Simpson had long been waiting for, and he committed to the Tigers on the spot the same day while on campus for an official visit.
It was a dream come true for Simpson, who has been living out his dream ever since arriving on campus in January as an early enrollee.
“This is where I wanted to be,” Simpson said. “So, I just had to wait, and when my opportunity came, I made sure I committed. Now I’m just living my dream and just learning every day, just learning this position, having fun, just taking the leadership from my older teammates and just running with it — just having the time of my life.”
— Photo courtesy USA Today Sports
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