He’ll have the option to play both in the SEC.
The rising senior defensive end and hero in Oxford’s run to the Class 6A state baseball title in May announced Friday intentions to sign with Mississippi State, where he will have a football scholarship and the option to play baseball.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Simpson made his announcement before about 550 players from eight teams at a lunchtime gathering of the NFL High School Player Development Camp, Presented by the National Guard.
Assuming he follows through on national signing day in February, he’ll become the ninth player from Oxford’s state semifinal team of 2011 to sign to play college ball and third in the SEC, joining linebacker Kwon Alexander (LSU) and athlete Trae Elston (Ole Miss).
Alexander and Elston were among eight seniors who signed this past February.
Former Oxford football players already in the SEC were junior defensive lineman Jared Morse (Vanderbilt) and sophomore defensive line man Allan Carson (Tennessee).
Simpson also would become the second member of his own family to sign with an SEC school. His older brother, Tucker, MVP of this year’s state baseball finals, signed to play baseball at Florida.
But only Trent Simpson will have the chance to be a two-sport player. He projects as a defensive end in football and first baseman in baseball.
“I met with Coach (John) Cohen, the head baseball coach, Coach (Butch) Thompson, and the baseball team and the football team at Mississippi State get along really well,” Simpson said. “They’re willing to work with each other, if they have a two-sport guy, and they just said if I wanted to play both, they definitely would let me.
“That had a little bit to do with it.”
He was offered similar options at Jacksonville State, Samford, South Alabama and UAB.
While the option to play both sports factored into Simpson’s school choice, he said he’s uncertain whether he will play baseball in college.
“I do not know, as of right now,” he said. “I’ve still got some time. Football is first.”
Trent Simpson made his biggest headlines as a high school athlete in baseball this past spring, hitting a key triple in Oxford’s semifinal series victory over Spain Park and a key home run in the Yellow Jackets’ title-series victory over Fairhope.
The bases-clearing triple against Spain Park tied Game 2, which Oxford won to force a Game 3. The home run at Patterson Field in Montgomery helped Oxford beat Fairhope 2-0 in Game 1 of the finals.
“That’s obviously something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
A starter since his freshman year, he’s a career .310 hitter with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs.
But Trent Simpson started playing football in seventh grade and had already emerged as a late-blooming football prospect.
“Up until about 10th grade, I never really thought about playing college football,” he said. “I was always just out there playing just to have fun and hang out with my buddies.”
During his sophomore year, Oxford football coach John Grass started talking to Trent Simpson about his prospects in football.
“Just number one, I saw the parameters,” Grass said. “He was 6-4 and about 230 at that time. Just seeing the frame and how well he uses his feet and stuff, I thought he could play Division I football.”
Grass said Trent Simpson “has come a long way in just the past two years.”
Trent Simpson had a standout junior season with 52 tackles, including nine behind the line of scrimmage, and seven sacks. He also made The Star’s Class 4A-6A All-Calhoun County squad.
Mississippi State got in on him early in the recruiting process and stayed on him, Trent Simpson said. He visited State’s campus during the Bulldogs’ spring game.
“They said they like my toughness and the way that I play the game,” Trent Simpson said. “Coach (Dan) Mullen just told me that playing football there will be the hardest thing that I’ll ever do in my life, and I took it as a challenge and something that I wanted to do.
“I just really feel comfortable with that coaching staff.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @Jmedley_star.