Note: The following appears in the Wofford gameday football program.
By donning a blonde wig and posing as Trevor Lawrence at the ACC Kickoff in July, offensive lineman John Simpson finally earned the national recognition that those associated with the Tiger program assuredly felt that he already deserved for his on-field performance.
Of course, offensive linemen are often underappreciated because of the lack of flashiness and attention pertaining to pass blocking, but for selfless leaders like Simpson, that is not at all a problem.
Now in his senior season, Simpson is a staple of the Tiger offensive line and is hoping to lead his team to its third national championship since he first put on a #74 Clemson jersey.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff always select two well-rounded leaders to attend the ACC Kickoff and represent the program in front of the media. This year, Simpson was chosen. He poked fun at the fact that he was attending the preseason media event over Lawrence, who is one of the most prominent players in college football.
Coach Swinney has routinely selected seniors to represent the program in Charlotte at the media event. However, with the help of a prop that resembled Lawrence’s signature golden locks, Simpson made up for Lawrence’s absence. The hilarious spectacle garnered national attention in the press and perfectly embodied Simpson’s fun-loving approach to leadership.
“I love bringing positive energy to the table,” said Simpson with a smile. “I’m always laughing and trying to be as fun-loving as possible. I like to bring a positive vibe to every situation so that my teammates can feed off my energy.”
Simpson hails from North Charleston, S.C. and was a standout at Fort Dorchester High School. He was also a star wrestler, as he was the state champion during his junior season.
On the gridiron, he became widely regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in the nation as well as one of the top overall prep players in South Carolina. Clemson Assistant Coaches Robbie Caldwell and Tony Elliott, both of whom Simpson is close with, recruited him, and the sincerity that they exuded while recruiting him drew the prized pass protector and run blocker to Tigertown.
“During the recruiting process, the coaches who recruited me kept it real. It felt like a family every time I visited Clemson, so it made the decision to commit to Clemson an easy one.”
As part of a talented offensive line corps in his first two seasons on campus, Simpson paid his dues and made the most of his playing time en route to becoming one of Clemson’s most vital blockers.
He is quick to cite Clemson’s 44-16 victory over Alabama in the most-recent national championship contest as his favorite football-related memory, but what the humble lineman might not be quick to admit is that he was an integral component of Clemson’s journey to the top last year.
This season, the Tiger offensive line is veteran-laden, and Simpson takes great pride in starting alongside several other accomplished linemen who have worked beside him every step of the way during the course of his Clemson football journey.
“It means a lot,” stated Simpson when asked about playing on such a star-studded offensive line. “Having guys like Tremayne (Anchrum), Sean (Pollard), Gage (Cervenka) and Jackson (Carman) next to me makes me more confident and allows me to play my best. Knowing that I can be a part of something like that is a great feeling.”
On the field, Simpson is a relentless pass blocker whose commitment to protecting the quarterback has earned him several prestigious honors. In 2018, Simpson was named Second-Team All-ACC by AP after starting all 15 games and totaling 858 snaps. Simpson, who received several preseason All-America nods, has lived up to the hype and has been named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week multiple times in 2019.
While accolades and awards are certainly appreciated by Simpson, the team’s success means more than anything, and that molds his team-first leadership style.
“I try to focus on my team and not let those things affect how I am as a player,” said Simpson of how he views individual honors. “I’m a team player. I want to be the best teammate over anything else.”
Off the field, Simpson is a gentle giant, as the 6’4”, 330-pound lineman frequently sports a smile that lights up a room and offers up a sense of humor that provides endless laughter. While other veterans of Clemson’s offensive line utilize serious motivational leadership tactics, Simpson chooses to make an impact on his younger teammates through connecting with them in a down-to-earth manner.
Positive energy is important to Simpson, and he aims to lead by example by maintaining positivity in everything that he does so as to not lose sight of how amazing of an experience it is to suit up for the Tigers on a daily basis.
“Being an offensive lineman, you have to be selfless and do things for others. The way I lead is by example and hope that people follow me.”
Outside of football, Simpson leads through his academic, personal and professional endeavors. Simpson, a P.A.W. Journey ambassador, has excelled in the classroom, with the sociology major harnessing his talents by completing a microinternship with WH Trucking that was made possible by P.A.W. Journey last year.
Once Simpson’s decorated Clemson career concludes, working towards playing in the NFL will become the main priority on his agenda. For now, Simpson is working towards maximizing his potential at the college level and becoming the best Tiger he can be in every aspect of his game and his life.
“My main goal right now is to try and work every day to be the best man I can possibly be, so that I can potentially be a part of an NFL team.”
Continuing to perform at a high level on the football field is his ultimate focus for the foreseeable future, but Simpson aims to one day venture onto a career path centered upon youth counseling.
Simpson has consistently served as a positive role model for his teammates, and it is no surprise that the conscientious Tiger wants to someday share his wisdom with kids in need of a positive outlook.
Simpson takes pride in how his actions positively impact others. The remarkable success experienced by Lawrence and other Tiger signal-callers who have taken snaps with Simpson blocking for them makes him more proud than any of the individual achievements that he has attained, and the same can be said of the differences that Simpson has made as a team leader in the locker room and in the real world.
Therefore, Simpson is not bothered by the comical wig incident overshadowing his spectacular play, as he knows that his play speaks for himself. Furthermore, the gag elicited plenty of smiles and laughs, making for yet another priceless moment made possible by the fun-loving Simpson and his dedication to giving off endless positive energy.