In our seventh installment in this series, we were able to catch up with former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Juwan Simpson. To get the full interview, click here:
Before the glory days Alabama fans are witnessing now, there was a time period in which many former players sacrificed so much in order for the program to sustain the continued success it has today. Juwan Simpson was one of those players.
Coming from Decatur, Alabama, Simpson (then Garth) was a standout two-sport star who excelled in both basketball and football. His love for basketball would eventually give way to the sport he took up for just a few years beginning in high school. As a raw prospect, Simpson’s sheer athleticism was too much to ignore for the Tide and they offered him a scholarship and it did not take long for Simpson to get noticed once he got to Alabama.
For many student-athletes, the transition from high school to college can be a transition that takes many months to adjust. For Simpson though, he was just fine as his engaging personality allowed him to connect with his teammates as well as other students on campus. Whether it was playing pickup games in the recreation center, hanging out in the student center, or posting up at a sorority party — Simpson was a well-known figure around campus and he seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
As for on the field, Simpson redshirted in 2002 and for him he used that time to get more acclimated to football. According to Simpson, “For me it was just understanding the game. I was so young when it came to football. It was really my fourth year playing football so just understanding the game was the biggest thing.” And if all it took was a season to get more accustomed to football, Simpson more than impressed the following year as he registered 62 tackles while starting in just three games. For Tide fans, they believed a star was truly born and this continued for a few more years as Simpson helped build some of the better defenses in Alabama history.
After an injury gave Simpson a minor setback in 2004, he came back with a vengeance in 2005 to be a cornerstone piece to a team looking to give Alabama its first national championship since 1992. What was compelling with Simpson was he was apart of a linebacker trio that consisted of players who traditionally fit the bill in terms of size in Freddie Roach and DeMeco Ryans. Simpson, who stood 6-foot-3 only weighed slightly over 220 pounds. However, what he lacked in size, he more than made up for it with natural instincts and raw speed. For his efforts, Simpson was able to help his team in finishing as the No. 1 defense in college football that year.
Life after Alabama has been great for Simpson though. He’s had a fantastic career in the CFL and has helped lead the Calgary Stampeders to two Grey Cup championships as well as two all-star appearances. Now, he is a happily married man with two beautiful children. He has aspirations to coach after he’s finished playing football and outside of that, he just enjoys spending time with his family.
Juwan, like many of his former teammates during that time period, has represented Alabama exceptionally well. His success is a testament to the work he put in during his college days and the character he’s shown off the field is something to admire and one many young athletes should emulate. One thing’s for sure, Alabama fans will never forget his big smile and his No. 42 jersey that once read two names. He is definitely continuing to represent Alabama well.