By Vytas Mazeika
Palo Alto Daily News Staff Writer
Before he lines up against Western Athletic Conference foes as a member of the San Jose State football team, Woodside senior Jason Simpson will play in the second annual Global Challenge Bowl.
The 17-year-old will travel to Japan next month as part of Team Stars & Stripes, which is made up of 45 high school seniors from 10 states. After a week of practices, Team Stars & Stripes will participate in an international competition against the Japanese junior national team (19 and under) on March 21 in Kawasaki Stadium.
"I'm a very open-minded person," Simpson said. "I like to travel. I was born and raised in Jamaica. While I was there, I traveled the world. So I'm really interested when an opportunity presents itself."
The Redwood City resident tore up the Peninsula Athletic League as a senior, scoring 20 touchdowns and rushing for 1,336 yards. His skills and size (6-foot, 200 pounds) translate better to the secondary at the next level, a position of need for the Spartans next season.
"I think I have an opportunity to play right away," Simpson said. "They're not very deep at the defensive back position, so I'm just going to try and go there and work hard."
Someone must have noticed all of the hard work because Simpson was one of two area players contacted along with Jerry Rice Jr. of Menlo School-Atherton, he said. But Simpson is the only Bay Area senior on the Stars & Stripes roster, and one of only two from California.
"We need high school seniors with solid academic backgrounds and a high moral character," Team Stars & Stripes coach Jeff Scurran said in a press release. "We are looking to recruit students who will be ambassadors for our sport, and who love playing the game known overseas as American Football."
Simpson was originally a soccer player when he moved from Jamaica to Chicago at age 7. He also ran track, but football wasn't in the picture until Simpson came to the Bay Area in 2002.
That's when he learned the game starting with the Redwood City 49ers and working his way up to a three-year varsity stint with the Wildcats and coach Steve Nicolopulos.
"I'm just going to remember the atmosphere," Simpson said of his time playing high school football. "As you get older, the challenges get harder. And at the high school level, you're closer to everyone. You're closer to your football team.
"Friday nights were fun."
The next game is on a Saturday, as most will be for Simpson over the next four years.
Team Japan will use the Global Challenge Bowl as preparation for the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship to be played in Canton, Ohio, in July.
Team Starts & Stripes members will travel directly to Tokyo from Los Angeles on March 13th and soak in Japanese culture as they live with host families for the duration of their stay.
And this time, they want to return home winners.
"From what I saw on the tapes, they have great athletes," Simpson said. "It will be friendly, but both teams will come to play ball."
E-mail Vytas Mazeika at firstname.lastname@example.org.
« Back to index