Incoming Ohio State cornerback Calvin Simpson-Hunt isn’t on campus yet, but when he does arrive, he will have gotten there on hard work, tough love, and excellent planning.
Mathews enrolled early for the Buckeyes and participated in winter workouts and spring practice. Simpson-Hunt, meanwhile, decided to have a traditional senior year and stayed at Waxahachie, in part because he didn’t want to leave his track teammates in a bind.
Regardless of the sport, that’s the type of teammate he is.
Shane Tolleson was hired to be Waxahachie’s head coach in 2021, and it didn’t take him long to realize the kind of person he had in Calvin Simpson-Hunt.
“Well, my first impression was this is a hard-working kid. Quiet, very respectful,” Tolleson told Buckeye Huddle. “If you know anything about his mom, you’ll know why. Great lady. But he’s a hard worker. He doesn’t say much, he just gets out there. Lots of talent. You knew he could run fast on the track, and he put the work in that he needed to put in to be successful.”
Coaches in all sports see the results of every type of parenting, which is why Tolleson speaks so highly of Calvin’s mother, Janel Simpson.
“You’re talking about involved. She’s present in everything,” Tolleson said. “When they say it takes a village, she definitely does that. Just unbelievable involvement. Communication. Holds him accountable in the classroom. Decisions on and off the field, which he didn’t make any bad decisions. But Mom was Dad, she was Mom, she was Grandmama, Grandpa, she’s everything.”
Straight From The Factory
Shane Tolleson was hired in February of 2021, and didn’t have his first real interactions with Simpson-Hunt until that spring. All he has seen from that point, however, is growth.
Listed at 6-feet tall and 190 pounds, Simpson-Hunt has the size and strength that cornerbacks (and their coaches) covet. Tolleson didn’t have to watch too long before he knew he was seeing a high-level college football prospect.
“Well, when you see him, number one, you’re thinking, ‘Well, that’s what they look like,'” Tolleson said. “Then you watch his work ethic. Then you watch the strength numbers come up when he was power-cleaning 315 pounds at cornerback, and then go out there and run a track meet.
“And then you start seeing him play man-to-man coverage. At the college level, if kids can play man-to-man, they are a hot commodity. And when you’ve got length like he does — God has blessed him with — I call it ‘Avatar arms.’ When he is blessed with that, you just know right now he’s got a chance to be not only a Saturday player, but one day a Sunday player.”
It was in part due to those Sunday hopes that Simpson-Hunt took to Ohio State and Buckeyes’ cornerbacks coach Tim Walton.
“I think he really loved the corners coach,” Tolleson said. “I think he loves the thought of the reputation and the tradition of the corners that have come out of Ohio State. He loves how Ohio State brands their school and he loves their defense.”
Finishing The Job
The trend now is for high school players to graduate early so that they can get to campus and get a head start on their freshman seasons. It’s a productive path for many, but for others — like Calvin Simpson-Hunt and incoming quarterback Lincoln Kienholz — it would mean giving up on some unfinished business.
For Kienholz, he wanted to finish out his basketball and baseball seasons with his classmates. For Simpson-Hunt, it was track that kept him in Texas.
What does that say about him?
“I think it says a lot about him,” Tolleson said. “I wish more kids did it. Because there’s a lot of kids that are counting on those guys to finish out a senior year. You’re only as good as your best. You’re only as good as that guy that got you there in the beginning, and then you come back the next year and they leave, it’s just tough.”
Tolleson calls Simpson-Hunt a leader by example, and there’s no better example than the decision to finish out his senior year for his teammates. He puts thought into everything he does, which usually leads to a positive outcome. And when it doesn’t, he figures out why it didn’t.
“He doesn’t say much. He’s a processor,” Tolleson said. “He thinks before he acts, but he’s a quick learner. Once he gets it, it’s one of those deals where, listen, he gave up one catch in 13 games. But it’s never because ‘that guy did something right.’ It’s because ‘I did something wrong.’ That’s his approach to it. And he’ll fix it.”
On And Off The Field
The best place to go for a scouting report on a player is the coach, but when Tolleson was asked to give strengths and weaknesses, the weaknesses didn’t roll off the tongue quite as freely as the strengths did.
“He’s strong. He can tackle. He’s physical,” he said. “He plays really good press man. He gets his hands on receivers quick and he can run with them. Weaknesses? Pfff, golly man, I would say quicker, small receivers? Because big receivers, he gets on them and he can manhandle them. Quicker receivers I think cause him a little bit of a problem because he’s so big. If that’s any negative.”
When Ohio State recruits a player, however, they are also recruiting a person. As much as they want great players, they also want great people. When Shane Tolleson talks about Calvin Simpson-Hunt, the real gushing has nothing to do with what happens on Friday nights in the fall.
“You know, when he walks into a room, he has this presence,” Tolleson said. “But I think he’s got a heart of gold for people. I think he truly wants the best for that university, that community. I think he wants to bring value to people, not just the game of football. He’s a huge nerd into Star Wars. He loves it. It’s not just Star Wars, but he loves all the Marvels. He’s that kind of kid.”
And while he may love Star Wars, he’s never been all that hung up on his own battle for stars. That’s never been where his focus was directed.
“He doesn’t care about stars. He’s not gone to one camp,” Tolleson said. “Never went on the circuit. He worked his butt off in the weight room, ran track, and did everything for the high school. And it paid off. So this notion that you’ve got to travel the world and do all this stuff to be seen is not true. I think if you pour yourself into your school, and you become the best player there, it gives you a chance. He played for the name on the front of his jersey, therefore everybody’s gonna know the name on the back of his jersey.”