Barrin Simpson - Linebacker - 2001-05 - Mississippi State
Lions relying on rookie - Grant Kerr - GlobeAndMail
Barrin Simpson wants to return home to play more football
for much more money in the United States. But first, there's this
assignment that calls for the B.C. Lions' rookie linebacker to stop one
of the best running backs in the Canadian Football League.
Simpson will be called on tomorrow in the West Division semi-final in
Calgary to limit the gains of talented tailback Kelvin Anderson of the
Stampeders in the fifth meeting of the year between the rivals.
Anderson twice rushed for more than 100 yards against Simpson and the
Lions in the regular season, but in the third match-up, Simpson came out
ahead, holding Anderson to 46 yards, most of them gained in the first
Simpson and Anderson were nearly teammates in the spring when they
attended the XFL training camp of the San Franciso Demons. Simpson was
released, Anderson stayed and now they're battling for the right to move
into the CFL's West Division final against the Edmonton Eskimos.
"Barrin has the instincts to be in the right place," B.C. head coach
Steve Buratto said yesterday of his prized middle linebacker, the team's
nominee in three categories for CFL awards: most outstanding player, top
defensive player and best rookie.
"Play recognition gets easier the more often you play them," Buratto
said of Simpson's performances against the Stampeders. "We're a better
defence [than a year ago, when the Lions won the Western final in
The Lions have improved defensively for several reasons, including a
confusing strategy devised by defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry.
The scheme calls for defensive linemen to occupy as many blockers as
possible, allowing linebackers a clear path to the ball carrier.
Simpson, 24, has thrived under the teaching of Etcheverry, although the
5-foot-11, 235-pound import had two difficult outings trying to stop
Toronto running back Michael Jenkins.
"He's very good, very hard to block and he tackles well," Stampeders
coach Wally Buono said in Calgary when discussing Simpson. "Who's he
like? I don't know if Alondra Johnson [of the Stamps]has ever played in
that style of defence. But, as far as running, tackling and hitting,
he's like A.J."
Simpson learned his football at Mississippi State and attended the
National Football League training camp of the New England Patriots last
year, where he learned NFL teams want 6-foot-4 linebackers, not someone
under six feet.
Being cut by an XFL team didn't sit well with Simpson, so he elected to
try the CFL after he caught the attention of Buratto during a tryout
session in Las Vegas.
"Most of our players have been cut somewhere, so this isn't anything
new," B.C. general manager Adam Rita said. "Barrin is very instinctive,
very focused, has his life in order.
"We'd like to sign him to a contract extension, but he still has the NFL
on his mind. Like I told him, 'A bird in the hand is better than a
promise.' You don't get paid down there until you actually make the
Simpson has an option year remaining on his B.C. contract, but there's
an escape clause that would allow him to sign a tryout contract in the
"I've learned so much in this league and I'm so thankful for the
opportunity to play under coach Etch," Simpson said. "Now is the time to
win or go home. This is my first pro playoff game. I'm excited, ready to
And go home if the opportunity arises.
"I had a nice experience in New England, but they thought I was too
small for the 3-4 defence," he added. "I do have aspirations to play
back home, and if that opportunity came along, I would probably do it.
"This whole year has been a blessing for me. I'm just having fun. Now,
please excuse me, I've got to watch some more film. We have to stop the
run so we can get into our defensive blitz package."
Barrin would not return to the U.S.A. as a player and spent
11 seasons as a star linebacker in the CFL with British Columbia,
Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. He was named the leagues Most Outstanding
Rookie in 2001 and would surpass 100 tackles 4 times in his career. He
would become an ordained minister and picked up the nickname 'Minister