Quarterback Ty Simpson received a scholarship offer from Michigan after a recent visit to Ann Arbor, but he has some things on his to-do list before he can put on the Wolverines uniform.
Graduate from middle school. Learn to drive. Oh, and take some snaps with a varsity offense.
Simpson is an eighth-grader at Martin (Tenn.) Middle School and will play football this fall at Westview High School in Martin. Simpson announced on social media that fourth-year Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh offered him a scholarship during a visit to Ann Arbor earlier this month.
If he accepts the offer, Simpson won’t join the Wolverines until the fall of 2022. Before he can join the Wolverines, or any college football program, Simpson has to join his high school program.
Westview coach Trey Cantrell has watched video of his incoming freshman quarterback.
“As a quarterback, I’d just describe him as fundamentally sound,” Cantrell told Land of 10. “He does all the things older quarterbacks can do. He does it better. I’ve mostly seen drill work of his on video, and in junior high it’s hard to say, ‘This kid is going to be great.’ ”
Offering scholarships to underclassmen is nothing new in college football. But offering junior high football players is rare, although Harbaugh has built a track record of doing so.
Nearly two years ago, Harbaugh offered a scholarship to Sol-Jay Maiava, a 2020 quarterback from Hawaii who was an eighth-grader at the time. According to 247Sports, Maiava has received six scholarship offers.
Harbaugh also offered scholarships to two eighth-graders in 2015: Blake Hinson, a tight end from Daytona Beach, Fla., and Owen Pappoe, a linebacker from Loganville, Ga. Hinson is a 4-star prospect and Pappoe a 5-star recruit, according to the 247Sports composite. Neither has committed to a school.
Simpson is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound 15-year-old who also excels in baseball. He told The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun he was floored by Michigan’s scholarship offer.
“I really didn’t believe it at first,” Simpson said. “I was like oh, he’s just being nice because he knows my dad and I was like they aren’t going to offer me, but I went up there [for] a visit and it was crazy, and [they] happened to offer me, so it was a crazy day.”
— Ty Simpson (@tysimpson510151) March 6, 2018
The key for Cantrell and his high school program isn’t to mold Simpson — whose father, Jason, is the coach at Tennessee-Martin — into a stronger college football prospect. The key is to integrate Simpson into the program and find where he serves Westview best as a ninth-grader.
Because of Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules, Cantrell cannot work with Simpson until he joins Westview for fall practice. His knowledge of Simpson comes mostly from watching video clips the eighth-grader has posted, but he has started to project Simpson.
“What I want to see this fall is how Ty develops with the protection of the offensive line, when it’s there,” Cantrell said. “Or, when a receiver is covered well, does he throw it in the right window? Those are things his dad has been able to work with him on, and other coaches who have been working with him at camps and clinics.”
— Ty Simpson (@tysimpson510151) February 18, 2018
Cantrell offers some advice, both to Simpson and to underclassmen who receive scholarship offers to play college football.
“If I was in Ty’s situation and I was giving myself advice, what I would say to any kid, is, do not let a scholarship define who you are,” Cantrell said. “A scholarship is a scholarship, at the end of the day. Be academically rewarded. Score high on your ACT. Get great grades.
“But don’t let this define you. You have to play high school football for four years. You’re not guaranteed anything when it comes down to it. But you are guaranteed these four years to play high school football, and you get to play with your friends, the people you grow up with. Focus on having fun and making the experience memorable. If you work hard and take care of things, it will all take care of itself.”