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Valley-native Simpson looks to succeed on grand stage

HOMETOWN STAR: Redshirt junior wide receiver T.J. Simpson works out in practice Tuesday. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)
HOMETOWN STAR: Redshirt junior wide receiver T.J. Simpson works out in practice Tuesday. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

College football season doesn’t kick off until this weekend, but Friday night lights in Arizona are already in full swing.

In four recruiting classes at the helm of the ASU football team, coach Dennis Erickson has signed a total of 29 Arizona natives, the second largest amount by a state after California.

A 2007 graduate of Peoria High School, ASU redshirt junior wide receiver T.J. Simpson was a three-sport athlete at the prep level. In track he won state titles in the 100, 200 and 400-meter races.

Looking to have a breakout season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year, Simpson recently spoke with The State Press about his time at Peoria as well as the upcoming season.

State Press: There seems to be somewhat of a pipeline between Peoria and ASU, with yourself, your cousin Jamal Miles and former running back Keegan Herring all playing collegiate football in Tempe, why do you think that is?

T.J. Simpson: It’s close to home. The fans all know who we are because we played locally. So they get to come see us and watch us play. Our family gets to come see every home game too.

SP: Do you ever get a chance to go back and watch any Peoria football games?

TS: I used to go back a lot the first two years because my little cousin Jamal was still playing there, but now these days I really don’t get a chance to go back. My little brother is at Centennial so I go to those games to see him play more.

SP: How much did running track in high school help you progress as a football player?

TS: It helped a lot. Speed transfers over to the football field. A lot of the training helped the quickness and quick bursts.

SP: You played basketball in high school too, and so did a lot of the other guys on this team, who do you think is the best?

TS: There some mixed emotions there. [Gerell Robinson] is pretty good. Then you got Jarrid Bryant. There’s a lot of people that have hops, a lot of people that can jump out of the gym.

SP: You’ve impressed just about everyone during fall camp, what’s been the biggest difference for you personally from last year?

TS: I’m more focused. The common goal on this team is to make it to the Rose Bowl and be the Pac-10 champs. A lot of it comes down to just being more focused mentally, and into the game and ready to go.

SP: How much are you looking forward to getting the season underway?

TS: I’m really excited. I can’t wait until Saturday. I’m counting down the days right now. I can’t wait until the lights are on and there’s another team on the other side I can play against.

SP: What about the new offense, do you feel good about it?

TS: I feel great about it. A lot of fans are going to be impressed with what we do on Saturdays. We are going to execute and put up a lot of points this season.

SP: How has the offensive line been performing through camp?

TS: They’re looking really good; this is the best I’ve seen them since I’ve been here. There’s a lot of leaders on the offensive line, like [Jon] Hargis, even though he’s not playing right now, he’s a big part of the line. He gets them motivated. He’s a captain but, more so, he’s the leader of the line.

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