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Servite's Simpson looks to make last game memorable
BUENA PARK – The nickname was born when a teammate jokingly pointed out Johnny Manziel was his doppelganger.
Because Aaron Simpson, like the former Heisman winner, also wore the No. 2 and was an undersized dual-threat quarterback with a knack for making something out of a broken play, “Aaron Football” was a natural moniker that stuck with the recent Servite grad.
“It’s funny and pretty cool to get compared to him on the football field,” Simpson said, before grinning, “Off the field is a little different, though.”
O.C. ALL-STAR GAME
At Orange Coast College
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Simpson was one of the county’s most versatile talents, but when a coin flip kept Servite out of the playoffs last November, it was never a certainty he would ever put the pads on again.
Like a number of athletes suiting up Friday night, the Brea Lions Orange County All-Star Football Game at Orange Coast College will serve as Simpson’s last hurrah on the gridiron. In a few weeks, he’ll begin preparing to play baseball at the University of San Diego.
“It’s great to be out here with all these all-stars,” Simpson said at a recent practice. “There’s some pretty great players out here, and it’s just fun to compete with them one more time. I wouldn’t miss this.”
Simpson will start Friday night at receiver for the North team. That is the position he played for Servite in its season opener last August. The 5-foot-10 speedster had six catches for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Friars routed Fountain Valley, 45-7, in Week 0.
In Week 3, the Friars permanently moved Simpson to quarterback to replace injured Tyler Lytle. That night, Simpson scrambled for the winning score late in the fourth quarter against Edison.
The “Aaron Football” phenomena reached its peak in Week 6. Servite trailed JSerra by a touchdown in the teams’ Trinity League opener, but Simpson scampered for a 22-yard touchdown run that put the Friars within a point with six seconds left in the game. He capped the comeback with a successful two-point conversion pass moments later for a 39-38 victory.
“He’s very athletic and did a lot of different things for us,” Servite coach Scott Meyer said. “Receiver, quarterback, holder, punter. He’s got a great work ethic and a ton of desire. He really wants to be great.”
When he was asked to play for the North in the 57th annual O.C. All Star Game, Simpson said the decision was a no-brainer. Because he’s unsure if he’ll get an opportunity to walk-on to San Diego’s football team in the coming years, he is treating this as his last outing on a football field.
Fueling his desire to put on a show Friday is the memory of his late friend and former teammate, Garrett Cox, who died June 24, according to Santa Ana police, when he was hit by a vehicle near the 17th Street on-ramp off of the 55 Freeway.
Simpson was getting ready to fly home from Hawaii when he received a text about Cox, who played freshman football at Servite before transferring to Crean Lutheran. When Simpson’s flight landed in California hours later, the haunting news had been confirmed.
“It’s so crazy and unreal, I still can’t believe,” Simpson quivered, fighting back the tears. “I’ve known him since freshman year. Great kid.”
In his mind it’s not a matter of if he scores tonight, but when. And when Simpson crosses the goal line, he said he will dedicate the touchdown to Cox. He plans to do it with some flare, too.
Not wanting to give away too many details, he said to think Terrell Owens and a Sharpie.
“That’s going to be for Garrett,” Simpson added.
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