A Conversation with Chicago Rush DB Jason Simpson

Chicago Rush DB Jason Simpson currently leads the Arena Football League in tackles and is tied with teammate DB Vic Hall for the league lead in interceptions. He’s a prominent player on a dominant defense.

Just don’t try telling him that.

I had the privilege of speaking with Simpson on the telephone, and when I asked him questions about his accomplishments and his abilities, he was quick to point out first that Hall is having a fantastic rookie season, that his roommate, DB Greg James, watches a lot of film with him during the week, that defensive coordinator Walt Housman and defensive backs coach Titcus Pettigrew are instrumental in his development as a player, and that the entire team is playing with cohesion and trust. He seemed rather uncomfortable singling himself out.

Simpson was even thinking of his teammates when I asked him to identify the most challenging wide receiver he has had to cover so far. Without hesitation, he said, “Reggie [Gray].” After a pause, he asked, “Oh, did you mean in games?” After some thought, he settled on Jesse Schmidt of the Iowa Barnstormers and Troy Bergeron of the Cleveland Gladiators. Reggie was really his answer, though.

I asked him how he has developed such a nose for the ball this season–his first with the Rush. After playing football for twenty years, he said, you develop an instinct. Combine that with a lot of preparation, great coaching, and teammates being where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to do, and a successful season develops for many players, he said, reminding me that Hall has racked up all of his stats playing one fewer game than everyone else due to a knee injury.

It wasn’t difficult to get his opinion on how head coach Bob McMillen differs from the other coaches he has played for. Simpson loves that Coach McMillen was a player before becoming a coach, giving him an understanding of what the players go through during a season. He also enjoys that Coach McMillen is not okay with complacency. Simpson’s personal motivation to be the best–to go the extra mile–is to progress from being good to being great, and he feels that Coach McMillen and the rest of the coaching staff in Chicago has provided him with that opportunity, teaching him more in his three months with the Rush than he learned in his previous four years in the league.

Simpson was even humble when I asked him about what he considers to be the highlight of his career so far. His answer? The day he signed with the Chicago Rush (October 20, 2010). He had wanted to play for Chicago for a long time because it’s the big time in Chicago, and the Rush provides him with a great opportunity to accomplish a goal that has escaped him so far–an AFL division title and an ArenaBowl championship.

I was able to get him to briefly skim over the highlight of his college playing career at the University of Missouri. “My strip against Nebraska during my senior year” was all I got from him. It didn’t take much effort to find what he was referring to, though, and it was more than just an ordinary strip. It was a game-changer. On national television. Against a team to which Missouri had lost 25 of the last 26 contests. Kind of a big deal, Jason.

So since Simpson is too bashful and humble to talk about his career highlights, I will. After a very successful career with the Missouri Tigers, where he earned 2nd Team All-Big 12 honors in 2004, was the team’s Safety of the Year in 2004, was an all-conference free safety, and served as the team captain in 2005, Simpson joined the Arkansas Twisters of the af2 in 2007. He promptly set the af2’s single-season record for tackles (142.5) in 2007 and earned 2nd Team All-af2 honors that year.

Simpson became an Iowa Barnstormer in the af2 in 2008 and remained with the team in 2010 when it made the jump to the AFL. He was Ironman of the Week in Week One, played in all 16 games for Iowa, racked up 92 tackles on the year, and snagged six interceptions. The highlight of his career there? When the team won its af2 division title in 2009.

In October of 2010, Simpson became a member of the Chicago Rush, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If he wasn’t playing defensive back, what position would he like to take a stab at? Wide receiver was his choice. He feels that it would provide him with a really good chance of being able to score a touchdown, although he notes the downside of getting hit. While it’s a lot of fun hitting someone, he said, it’s considerably less fun receiving the hit, especially when you don’t see it coming.

Simpson’s athletic prowess doesn’t end on the football field. He is also an avid golfer, playing as many times per week as the weather and his schedule will allow. Outside of sports, he enjoys the community service he participates in through the Rush organization, which includes involvement in mentoring programs, training athletes, and providing a role model for kids who have none.

And why does he wear #6? During his junior year in high school in The Woodlands, Texas, he wore #1, but he didn’t like it because it made him look too skinny (he’s listed at 6’1″, 205 lbs. on the Rush’s website). During his senior year, he thought #6 looked better, and his birthday is April 6 (1983), so a tradition was born. He wore the jersey number in high school, at Missouri, with the Barnstormers, and now with the Rush.

When the Chicago Rush plays, watch for #6, Jason Simpson. You’ll be watching a very humble, team-oriented player who is very talented, works hard, prepares thoroughly, loves the game of football, loves what he does, and has fun playing.

It definitely shows on game day.

More About Jason Simpson:

ArenaFan.com

Chicago Rush player profile

Columbia Daily Tribune

Iowa Barnstormers player profile

Missouri Tigers player profile

Our Sports Central

Vimeo.com (video)