TimesLedger High School Football Player of the Year: Zanu Simpson

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If Zanu Simpson the football player had to be summed up in one word, that word would undoubtedly be “tough.” He was not the fastest, quickest or biggest player on the field at any time, nor as quarterback did he throw a “pretty ball.” But Simpson always seemed to get it done and always seemed to be the best player on the field, which is why he has been selected as the TimesLedger Football Player of the Year.

The Bayside Commodores made it to the playoffs on the back of Simpson, a 17-year-old out of St. Albans who hardly, if ever, left the field.

He played quarterback on offense, strong safety on defense, he punted and played on every special team, leading his coach, Joe Capuana, to lament during the season, “I never get to talk to the kid.”

“This year I had to be one of the leaders,” Simpson said. “I worked hard, I pushed my teammates in practice. I had to step it up.”

At first glance his statistics may not seem overly impressive, except for the sheer number of stats he compiled. He threw for better than 50 percent and for 546 yards including five touchdowns. Also out of the quarterback position Simpson ran for 335 yards on 45 carries for an average of 7.44 per carry while scoring six touchdowns.

As good an offensive player as he is, Simpson had an even better season on the other side of the ball. Opposing teams did not throw his way and when they did, Simpson was invariably there. He hauled in four interceptions this year and recorded 40 tackles and one fumble recovery. He also returned one pick for a score.

“I played both sides of the ball all my life,” said Simpson, who started his football career at age 11 with the Springfield Rifles. “I’m used to it.”

Simpson started his high school career as a running back before switching to quarterback his junior season, more out of a necessity to the team than a want to play the position.

“Knowing I can play quarterback, I’m not going to let the team go down,” Simpson said. “I came here to play running back. But I said if playing quarterback was going to get me on the field I’d do it.”

“I knew coming in I had a great athlete,” Bayside coach Joe Capuana said of Simpson. “I didn’t know I had a great leader. After the first game I knew I had someone who would never quit.”

Even though he was the taskmaster at times with his teammates, Simpson is described by his coach as being well-liked, not by just his team, but by fellow students and faculty alike.

Because of lackluster grades early in his high school career — which began at August Martin before he transferred midway through his freshman year — Simpson will attend junior college next year before taking his game to the next level. And whether or not he has all the tools to play major Division I ball is still a question, he does have the one gift all great football players need to have.

“He wills the people around him to win,” Capuana said.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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