Even though his dad was a successful high school football coach, and a former University of Kentucky linebacker, Sam Simpson always fancied himself a baseball player.
"Football was always a sport I liked, but I grew up a baseball guy. After Little League and Babe Ruth, I loved it. I played first base and was a good hitter. Even when I figured out football was my best chance for a college scholarship, I still loved baseball," said Simpson. "I kind of hoped and dreamed I might get to play college football, but it didn't really kick in that it could happen until I started talking to coaches my freshman year. It just kind of grew from there."
Sam Simpson was always big, but not gigantic. Then he admits he just kind of "blew up" and went from quarterback to tight end and eventually to center, a position he admitted required him to work more than he expected to learn how to do relatively simple things like snap the football properly.
His father, Lexington Henry Clay coach Sam Simpson, knew his son had the size to play defensive end or offensive tackle. However, he also thought from his basketball skills — good hands, great footwork — that he might be able to handle playing center.
"How big are most centers in college? Probably 6-3 or 6-4. I knew Samuel (he calls him that to avoid confusion with his own name) would be on the upper side of that. If he played tackle, you are talking about guys 6-6 or 6-7. He would have been average size, or even below normal, for a top Division I tackle," his father said.
The move certainly paid off because the 6-5, 260-pound Sam Simpson is now one of the nation's highest-rated centers and is scheduled to sign with the hometown Wildcats in February.
"After his sophomore year when he graded out higher than any lineman we had ever had, I felt he could be special," his father said. "He had schools that saw him play and felt the same way. The summer before his junior year, Kentucky offered him a scholarship. He was offered by Troy and Middle Tennessee during the sophomore year. Virginia offered in the summer when Kentucky did. Then other schools just kept offering."