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A spirit that is not afraid

Jaylin Simpson accepts Senior Bowl invite, enters NFL Draft

<p>Jaylin Simpson (#36) celebrates a touchdown against UMass at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 2nd 2023</p>

Jaylin Simpson (#36) celebrates a touchdown against UMass at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 2nd 2023

After completing his fifth season on the Plains, Auburn safety Jaylin Simpson has accepted his invitation to compete in the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Feb. 3, 2024, in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.

Simpson redshirted his freshman season and still had the opportunity to return to Auburn due to the extra year of eligibility granted to every player by the NCAA for playing during the shortened, COVID-19 season in 2020.

A constant during Simpson’s Auburn career has been change. Since joining the Tigers’ roster prior to the 2019 season, the former four-star recruit has experienced three different head coaches and played under four defensive coordinators in his five collegiate seasons.

Simpson was once again faced with change when he switched from cornerback, a position he had played in 32 previous games for Auburn, to safety following several injuries down the stretch of the 2022 season.

Right off the bat, Simpson had four interceptions in his first five games of the 2023 campaign —one of which he returned for a touchdown. With a fumble recovery against UMass, Simpson led the Tigers with five takeaways on the season.

Simpson received several honors throughout the regular season, including being named a midseason All-American by the Associated Press, and this week he was named second team All-SEC by the league's coaches.

It wasn’t anymore apparent that Simpson was the heartbeat of Ron Robert’s first defense at Auburn than in the closing moments of this year’s Deep South Oldest Rivalry. When Auburn’s star safety went down in the fourth quarter, Georgia was able to make the big plays through the air to Brock Bowers to secure a win.

“It truly hurt us when Jaylin Simpson went out in the fourth quarter. I mean, to that point, I believe I’m right in saying Bowers had two or three catches. When Jaylin went out, we lost our best bracket guy,” Hugh Freeze said of Simpson following a 27-20 loss to the two-time defending champions.

In 12 games this season, Simpson also had 36 total tackles, 28 of which were solo, and 1.5 tackles for loss totaling 4 yards.

“(Simpson) has been an energy-leader, fun for me to be around on the sideline, always cutting up with me in practice. He's been a joy to coach truthfully and has played really well,” Freeze said of the Auburn safety following the bye week. 

Currently at 6-foot-1 and 178 pounds, Simpson is rated as the No. 4 safety in the draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper, with a little over four months to go in the evaluation process.

As for Auburn’s final test of the season in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl against the Maryland Terrapins, Simpson announced on his Instagram story that he will suit up for the Tigers one final time in hopes of winning his first bowl game at Auburn.

Simpson and Auburn are scheduled to kick off from Nashville, Tennessee, against Maryland on Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. CST, with television coverage on ABC. The Tigers' final chapter of the 2023 season can be heard around the state of Alabama on the Auburn Sports Network’s radio affiliates.

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