Simpson welcomes shot to continue career at Division II powerhouse Benedict

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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The twists and turns of the recruiting process ended with Antonio Simpson in a place he says offered exactly what he wanted.

The Mountain Foothills 7 Conference Player of the Year signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday to continue his football career at Benedict College, the stellar NCAA Division II program based in Columbia, S.C.

The celebration in Polk County’s auditorium put an exclamation point on one of the best careers in Wolverine history. Simpson finished his four years as a Wolverine as the school’s all-time leading receiver with 2,513 yards, also setting records for yards in a game and season, and earned selection to the East-West All-Star Game.

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“It feels great,” Simpson said. “All the hard work I put into the game paid off, and I want to thank my coaches, my family and all the support I had around me to help me go to the next level.”

Simpson attracted interest from several schools during his recruiting process, including at one point landing an offer from Georgia State. But the 6-4 senior wasn’t certain he wanted to attend college in Atlanta, and when Benedict came calling earlier this year, it proved a great match.

“They started talking to me right after I got my Georgia State offer, and they stayed in contact a good bit,” Simpson said. “I had a chance in February to go view the campus and meet the coach, and we hit it off. I’m glad to be a part of their family and what they have going on with their winning organization.

“I’m not really a city type of guy, so I’m going to stay more to my roots. It’s not too big, it’s not too small and they have a great sports management program, so I hope to get my major in that.”

Benedict welcomed a new head coach in January, with Ron Dickerson Jr. coming to Columbia after two seasons at the University of West Florida. Dickerson posted a 20-6 record at West Florida and has an extensive coaching background that includes stops in the NFL and Southeastern Conference.

Dickerson and Simpson arrive at Benedict at a time when the football program has flourished; the Tigers went undefeated during the regular season in 2022 and 2023 and advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs both years.

Polk County head football coach Dustin Fry, who coached collegiately at Clemson, Southern Methodist and Arkansas, looks forward to seeing Simpson continue to grow his talents.

“I’m really elated that he’s getting to go play at the next level,” Fry said. “I’ve told him the hard work starts now. This has been the easy part of it until this point.

“I’m excited to watch him and see him play at the next level.”

Simpson said that Benedict has indicated that they’ll move him to safety, taking advantage of his size and speed. There’s also a chance that Simpson may redshirt in his first season with the program.

He plans to head to Columbia early this summer to begin chasing his college dream.

“This June, I’ll probably be leaving around the first week so I can go down and put extra work in,” Simpson said. “I’m excited, very excited to go down there.”