Bill Simpson – a legacy etched in time

It’s amazing how life can mirror a game. Everything you find in the game of football is similar to what you will find in real life. Hard work, talent, love, setbacks, rules, unexpected turns, growing, working with others, passion and an impact or impression you leave on others are all intertwined in the game of football and the game of life.

Bill Simpson fell in love with the game of football the first time he put on the pads. Everything that football encompassed inspired him.

As a 14-year-old Bill played his Grade 9 year with his Laurentian High School team in Ottawa and never looked back. In his first year, he picked up the team award for heart, soul and perseverance as well as the scoring award; but that was the only year he played high school football.

Simpson’s neighbour Don Holtby was the coach for the travel Ottawa Sooners and recruited him to play for the team at the tender age of 15.

Bill Simpson’s rookie campaign was like a scene out of “Rudy” as he was younger and smaller than the rest of the team but he wore his number 11 with pride. He worked hard to be the first one to every loose ball and was the first on the field for practise and the last one to leave.

The Sooners won two Eastern Canadian Championships with Simpson on the roster in ’69 and 70 but the Saskatoon Hilltops beat them both years to win the Canadian title.

After four years with the Sooners, Simpson played with the semi-pro London Lords and Brantford, living his passion for football while working different jobs that the teams would line up for him.

The 23-year-old then jumped to the Empire Football League in New York State where he played with Scranton and Glen Falls until 1980. Simpson returned to Ottawa in 1981 to play with the Ottawa Demon Deacons until 1983 then suited up for his final team as a player with the Bramalea Satellites until 1985. Two knee operations, an injured left shoulder as well as two hand injuries later Bill Simpson’s playing career was done but his passion for the game wasn’t.

After a stint in London helping coach the Beal Raiders High School team, Simpson landed in Sarnia to be closer to his aging, retired parents. He stayed near the gridiron in Sarnia as he helped with the Sarnia Minor program as well as the SCITS Blue Bombers and the Sarnia Sturgeons. Simpson was the head coach of the Sarnia Imperials from 2008-2012.

The time in Sarnia holds a special spot in Bill Simpson’s heart as that is when he met and fell in love with his wife Carol and with her he was lucky enough to pick up some free agents in the deal with stepchildren Lisa and Johnny as well as three prospects in the form of three loving, vibrant grandchildren.

Simpson was the Commissioner of Pee Wee Football for the Chatham-Kent Cougars and is now the head coach of the Varsity Cougars.

October 31, 2013 was a day that life threw a cheap shot at Bill Simpson as he was told he has stage 4 liver cancer in his colon. The words still ring in his head “you have two years left to live…max”.

In the blink of an eye Bill Simpson’s whole coaching philosophy changed…it changed from coaching football to coaching life.

The numbers on the scoreboard don’t mean as much as the effort on the field and the life lessons learned.

“I stopped taking chemo because it was just making me too sick,” said Simpson,” but I haven’t quit, my oncologist is looking into other treatments and I am eating healthy and exercising to try and prolong this this thing.”

Simpson’s battle with cancer has brought his team closer together and his lessons have been hitting home as the whole team has taken on his persona as a group that are serious about football, they play with swagger but they play clean and realize it’s a game that they play with Cougar Pride.

“We have a diverse team of great young men, young men who could have gone down the wrong path but they are working hard and are going down the right path.” Said Simpson.

“I hope that my legacy with this very special group of young men is no matter what, you have to keep fighting for every yard in life, you will get knocked down but you have to get up and keep going. I hope they are learning that no matter what happens you can’t quit, keep the legs pumping.” He emphasized.

“I know that I am not giving up, I am going to keep fighting and playing hard until that last whistle blows and I hope that lives on in each one of them.”  

 

Submitted by Gary Patterson

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