Before Damarcus Simpson came to the University of Oregon, he wanted to be a football player, not a track and field athlete. It took him a few years, but eventually Simpson found his calling for the sport.
After two years of competing for Chadron State, a Division III school in Nebraska, he transferred to Oregon and became one of the school’s more versatile athletes.
Simpson, a senior, is a three-time All-American, a two-time Pac-12 long jump champion and was named the 2018 Pac-12 Field Athlete of the year. The last Oregon athlete to win that honor was Ashton Eaton in 2010.
At the 2018 Pac-12 championships, Simpson’s third attempt at the long jump was a lifetime best and school record 27 feet, four inches. He jumped farther than anybody else in the competition on all of his jumps.
By himself, Simpson accounted for 26 points in the final conference meet of the year. His versatility in the 100-meter dash, the 4×100-meter relay and the long jump make him a huge asset for the team.
Head coach Robert Johnson knows just how valuable Simpson is to the team. Simpson’s steady demeanor and work ethic are key.
“Every day you get the same thing out of him,” Johnson said. “And that consistency is paying off big for him now.”
During the 2017 west preliminary rounds, Simpson struggled and didn’t even qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
This year, Simpson is looking to get back into the national spotlight. He made sure he would be competing at Hayward one last time, jumping 26-11.75 (8.22m) in his first attempt in the western regionals.
Simpson’s teammate Tristan James is the first long-term competitive training partner Simpson has had. Every day at practice, the two better each other through friendly competition.
“We’re pretty competitive, but I want him to go out there and beat me if he can,” Simpson said. “Because that’s the type of competitor that I am. If you can beat me then kudos to you.”
Simpson’s top-end speed made the transition to the 100-meter dash and 4×100 meter relay a natural one.
For consecutive seasons, Simpson has placed second in the 100 meters at the Pac-12 Championships. His personal-best in the event is a wind-aided 9.94 seconds at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Prior to the Pac-12 championships, Simpson was asked how it would feel to be part of Oregon’s competitive legacy.
“It would mean a lot. It would mean a lot to everyone honestly, because it’s Oregon,” he said. “There have been so many great athletes and to be a part of that is so emotional and so crazy that you don’t even realize it until it actually happens.”
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