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An American Tragedy – O.J. Simpson Passes Away

Scott Morris | April 11, 2024
OJ at USC

His early life was a made-for-TV movie that epitomized the rags-to-riches story. The latter half of his years were spent in a real-life thriller. Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, after battling cancer for about a year. He was surrounded by his family.

At 76 years of age, Simpson definitely lived a full life, maybe one that was too full. He was one of the greatest running backs in college football and NFL history. Simpson turned his athletic fame into a pretty solid television career, but found himself on the wrong side of the law for much of the second chapter of his life.

Love him or hate him, the “Juice” was an interesting character. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the life of O.J. Simpson.

The Early Days

It’s likely that you didn’t know that Simpson was the son of Jimmy Simpson. Jimmy Simpson was a well-known drag queen in the San Francisco area in the 1960s. The elder Simpson died of AIDs in 1986.

Jimmy left the family in 1952 and Simpson was raised by his mother. He was in trouble a lot and if not for a chance meeting with MLB Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Simpson may have never realized his athletic talent.

Simpson became a very good high school running back in San Francisco He went to the City College of San Francisco and was a JUCO All-American. He chose to attend USC under legendary head coach John McKay. Simpson would lead all of college football in rushing in 1967 and 1968. He won the ‘68 Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best player.

The NFL

OJ with the BillsSimpson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1969 NFL draft, going to the Buffalo Bills. Simpson never topped 750 yards in his first three seasons with the Bills, but after the hiring of Lou Saban as the team’s head coach, Simpson became a star.

In 1973, Simpson would become the first NFL player to rush for over 2,000 yards. Simpson finished the season with 2,003 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, and did it in 14 games. His 143.1 rushing yards per game is still an NFL record.

Simpson would win the 1973 NFL MVP award and go on to become a five-time first-team All-Pro. He spent 11 years in the league and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

The TV Years

Simpson retired from the NFL after the 1979 season. He had long been interested in becoming an actor and actually appeared in several TV shows and TV movies while a member of the Buffalo Bills. He also had endorsements with companies like Hertz and appeared in numerous television commercials.

Simpson became a commentator for Monday Night Football and for the NFL on NBC. His biggest credits up to that point had been as part of the Naked Gun franchise – three movies that came out in 1988, 1991, and 1994.

Simpson was set to be the lead character in an NBC series titled Frogmen. A two-hour pilot was shot and completed in 1994, just two months before Simpson’s life would change dramatically.

The Downfall

OJ in the BroncoIf you lived through this, you know it was one of the most publicized events in history. On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside of her condo in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Simpson had pleaded no contest to a domestic dispute with Brown in 1989. He immediately became a suspect.

After police gathered evidence, they filed charges and issued a warrant for Simpson’s arrest. Simpson agreed to turn himself in on June 17. He did not. Instead, his friend Al Cowlings drove Simpson around in a white Ford Bronco. The low-speed chase was televised by all of the major news networks.

Simpson would eventually stand trial and was acquitted of the murders. The family of Goldman filed a civil suit against Simpson and won. Damages of $33.5 million were awarded and little of that settlement has been paid.

Simpson had a number of other legal troubles between 1997 and 2007. In 2007, Simpson and an accomplice attempted to rob a sports memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas. Simpson claimed that the items were his and he was trying to get them back.

In December 2008, Simpson stood trial, was convicted, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He was paroled in 2017 after serving almost nine years. About two months ago, the Simpson family went public with the news that O.J. had prostate cancer. Coincidentally, because of the murders, ones which most Americans think he got away with, O.J. made our list of the most hated athletes of all time.

 

 

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