RATHER THAN COACHING hours away from his roots, new Georgia Tech assistant coach Jess Simpson has found a luxury away from Tobacco Road.

He’s back home. He’s near the digs of Tom Riden Stadium where he etched his name in high school coaching lore. Most importantly, Simpson has more access to the ones he loves most.

In Atlanta for the third time (two stints with the Atlanta Falcons) in his eight seasons coaching above the high school level, Simpson has already had moments to cherish since taking the Georgia Tech job in January. He gets to drive east to Duluth to visit with his son, Luke Simpson, daughter-in-law Dana Simpson and granddaughter Melda. He can drive a few miles northwest to Marietta for a cup of coffee with his mother, Carole Simpson, after the unfortunate Dec. 28 passing of his father, Howard Simpson.

These moments, along with professional growth, make the move after two seasons at Duke worthwhile.

“Those were easy, easy personal decisions,” Jess said. “I say ‘Wow. If I was still in North Carolina, I wouldn’t be able to do this.’ It allows me to make family more of a priority when you can’t when you’re away from them.”

The longtime Buford legend and rising college coach sat down with The North Gwinnett Voice for a Q&A.

(This interview was slightly edited for clarity.)

Q: How did the move from Duke to Georgia Tech play out?

A: We had a great two years at Duke, and I really loved my players. We had a blast and had a lot of success. We got that thing turned around, so that was a great experience for me. I really, really enjoyed my time there. I thought we were going to be there for awhile. I knew that (former Duke head coach Mike) Elko had a connection to (Texas) A&M. You never know, when those jobs come open, what’s going to happen. I thought he would definitely be a candidate, then all of a sudden, he was the guy. Things started happening fast in December, and Trish and I had a lot to consider.

At the end of December, when the Georgia Tech job became a possibility, it felt like a no-brainer. From a personal standpoint, we got to come back home and be with our four kids. There are some times in my life when I say ‘This is what I’m supposed to do.’

When you look at it professionally, you have a coach at Georgia Tech (head coach Brent Key) who played here. The fan base is energized. The arrow is up in terms of they won seven games and a bowl game. The arrow is up for this job. I got the vision of where they want to go. There’s so much positive energy behind this program. When you come to Georgia Tech, you know you’re coaching great kids who value an education and want to be great at football. They’re ambitious for success in every area of their life, and it’s fun to coach kids who want more.

All photos courtesy of Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Q: What excited you about Georgia Tech when you first took the job?

A: It made me excited that I got to come with Tyler Santucci, our defensive coordinator. We worked together at Duke, and he coached (my son) Jake (Simpson) at Wake Forest. He is a personal family friend and great coach. When you can work with someone you’re familiar with, it makes it so much easier and so much fun. That makes the transition easier.

Q: As you progress through the college ranks, how often do you think of your success at Buford?

A: I think about it a lot. I talk about it more than people want to hear about it. I’m so proud of it, our time there and what (Dexter) Wood and I did together there. My relationships with people there are still incredible. Some of my closest friends in the world are in Buford, Georgia. It’s amazing to see (Bryant Appling) and a lot of my former coaches be super successful. It’s hard to have more pride than seeing a coach that you helped train up take over and have the success he’s had. That is so gratifying to see that.

Coach Wood is still like a dad to me. We still talk and text all of the time. I’ll still ask him for wisdom and advice. For me, Buford will always have a special place in my heart. Buford helped grow me up as a dad, a man and as a coach. That’s what’s cool about Buford. It allowed me to grow and flourish. I don’t know that every place would’ve allowed me to have that same growth that Buford did.

Q: Did you ever envision having such success at the next level after leaving Buford?

A: I didn’t know. But I believe that football is a proving game. You have to prove it every single day. In your life, you come to spots where you know it’s time for something new and different — even if uncomfortable. I think I knew in December 2016 that it was time for me to take on a new challenge. It’s so invigorating to say ‘Where can I take this thing?’ I really had no idea what that was going to look like. I was 46 years old and thought ‘You’re kind of old to start trying to do this.’ I wanted to see how good of a job I could do coaching at the next level, and I went as hard as I could at it. The last eight years have been a great adventure with learning, growing and meeting new people. It has been a blast.

The worst thing you can do in your life is have regrets, and I’ve always wanted to try to live without them. In a big way, leaving Buford was saying ‘I’m going to go see what I’m capable of.’

Q: As you continue your career, do you have any plan for rising in the coaching ranks? (Simpson is Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach)

A: When I was younger, I wanted to have a five-year plan of what I wanted to accomplish. Where I’ve gotten to a point in my career now where I really want to do as good of a job as I can where I’m at today. I’ve realized that when you do really well where you’re at, people are always watching. That doesn’t really mean that anything will happen or not happen, but it’s about living where you’re planted. Be where your feet are and make what your job is the best in the world, there’s no telling what might happen on the other side.

I think that worrying about the next job is never a recipe for being successful.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by ExactMetrics