Freshman linebacker Trenton Simpson is not at all disappointed with his experience at Clemson so far. In fact, Clemson is all of what the former five-star prospect from Charlotte, N.C., expected it to be when he enrolled at the school in January.
“This place has been everything I thought it was going to be, and this is the place I wanted to be,” Simpson said Monday, reflecting on his first year at Clemson to this point. “I knew this place fit me, my personality. I’m a very laid-back person. This school is laid back. It fits me.
“I knew the football part of Clemson was going to take care of everything, but when I’m here, I feel very comfortable. I never feel like I’m at the wrong place. I always feel like my personality fits here, and I love the coaches and how they treat everybody. It’s just a great place to be.”
Without an offer from Clemson at the time, Simpson originally committed to the Auburn Tigers in June 2019 but knew throughout the recruiting process that he really wanted to be a Clemson Tiger.
The Tigers initially didn’t anticipate having a spot for Simpson in their 2020 recruiting class, but once a scholarship became available late in the cycle, they extended an offer to him four days before the start of the early signing period on Dec. 18.
Simpson, who had decommited from Auburn by that point, jumped on the offer from Clemson and committed to the Tigers while on campus for an official visit the weekend before the early signing period.
The nation’s top-ranked outside linebacker, per multiple recruiting services, admitted it was difficult at times to stay patient and wait for a potential offer from Clemson. But he kept the faith, and it all worked out in the end.
“I had a little bit of doubt, but I just kept praying,” Simpson said. “Me and my mom stayed positive, my family. We had a feeling it was going to come together. There were times when I didn’t know for sure, but just prayer and faith in God and everything took care of itself, and now I’m here.”
Not only is Simpson where he wanted to be all along, but he is taking advantage of the opportunities he has been given as a true freshman and seeing his hard work pay off on the field.
The former Mallard Creek High School standout had the best performance of his young career as a Tiger against Georgia Tech in Atlanta last Saturday, when he tied for the team lead with six tackles while helping Clemson’s defense shut down the Yellow Jackets in a 73-7 victory.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “We prepared all week. I had a great week in practice, so when I went out there, I was really confident in the game plan. When I got out there, I just knew I had to execute and take care of my job. It was a great feeling.”
Simpson, who totaled 20 sacks as a senior in high school, recorded his first collegiate sack against The Citadel at Death Valley on Sept. 19.
“We went over it in film all week,” Simpson said of being prepared to make the sack. “I repped it really good in practice, and it was just one of those things I just reacted. When I saw (The Citadel quarterback Brandon Rainey) pull the ball, I said, ‘I’ve got to be there.’ That was my play to make, and I just made the play. It was a great feeling. I’m young and made a play, so it was a great feeling. My teammates were excited for me.”
Simpson, who played a lot of running back in high school, didn’t start seeing action at linebacker until his junior season in 2018. Now, he is repping full-time at the Tigers’ nickel/SAM position behind starter Mike Jones and is thoroughly enjoying playing the position that current Arizona Cardinals rookie Isaiah Simmons thrived in at Clemson.
“I love being able to just run around,” Simpson said. “SAM gives me a chance to just run around and use my athletic ability and just be able to cover sometimes and then come in the box and make a lot of tackles. I’m loving it. I watched how they used Isaiah Simmons, and when I came here, I was like it’s great that I get to fill the same role he was in and learn how to do it like he did.”
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