Simpson proves to be Stamps' rock on D

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

For two years, Juwan Simpson was mostly on the outside looking in with the Calgary Stampeders defence.

A bit player, he was in a constant fight just to keep his backup role.

Once he thrown into the middle of Chris Jones’ group, it was like a struggling actor finding the part of a lifetime.

The Stamps had miscast Simpson as a defensive end, and he was in and out of the lineup.

But when Robert McCune went down with an injury in spring training, Simpson took over at middle linebacker.

Fast forward five months and he’s the Stampeders’ nominee for most outstanding defensive player.

“Jones likes to try different things,” said the Alabama product, who joined the Stamps in 2008.

“It was an experiment he tried with me. Not that it went sour, but it wasn’t the best position for me. I think I’ve found that position.

“Hopefully, there are many more great years to come of me playing that spot. To get this award is something I would have said you’re crazy if you told me before this season. I’ve been blessed.”

With his first nomination, Simpson has a decent chance at representing the West Division at the Gibson’s Finest ceremony Nov. 25 in Edmonton during Grey Cup week.

He leads the Stamps, who have the top defence in the CFL, in both defensive tackles and sacks while also growing into one of the emotional leaders of the entire team.

“What a surprise Simps has been this year,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel.

“I said from the opening game of the season that he had the opportunity to play that (middle) linebacker spot. He won it in training camp.

“He relishes it, and his leadership along with his physical, fast play is a tremendous boost for our team.”

Last season, the Stamps had plenty of defensive troubles. They couldn’t stop the run and they had lost that spark former linebacker JoJuan Armour had given them.

Rookie Tray Blackmon was the middle linebacker coming out of training camp, but by bye week, the team brought on board NFL veteran Tim Johnson to solidify the spot.

The Stamps were one of the worst teams in rush defence last season. Now, they are the league’s best, and the biggest change to their starting lineup is Simpson.

Throughout the entire 2009 campaign, the 26-year-old knew he could play that spot, but he didn’t argue about not being the starter.

“It’s not me to be confrontational,” Simpson said.

“I didn’t want to burn bridges. I didn’t want people to think I’m a guy that I’m not.

“I did want to play, but that’s the competitor in me. Everybody that I talked to gave positive thoughts, they just told me to sit back and my time will come. When that times comes, you have to take advantage of it. That’s the way it happened.”

Simpson is a free agent at the end of this season, and he could be a hot commodity along with the likes of defensive backs Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson.

He isn’t worried about that now, as he wants to win a Grey Cup as a starter instead of as a special-teams player.

“My value will go up when we win the championship,” Simpson said.

“That’s the ultimate goal. Regardless of these awards. If we don’t come out on top, I won’t be too satisfied with this season.

“The individual awards are great. All you can do is be happy about it. The ultimate goal was to get to the championship.

“If I go (as West Division nominee) and we’re all going as a team, it will be happy-go-lucky.

“I want my team to be there with me if I go.”


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