Las Vegas Raiders rookie John Simpson has a politeness about him that makes him incredibly likable within a few minutes of meeting him, but on the football field, there's no time for pleasantries.
The 2020 fourth-round pick was brought in by Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock for added depth at guard and perhaps to mature into a starter down the line, but I wonder if they knew who Simpson tries to model his game after?
"I kind of model my game after [Richie Incognito] I guess," Simpson said this offseason.
While Simpson is a well-mannered individual off the field, he wants to emulate the same tenacity and aggression as his now-fellow teammate. Despite the restrictions of COVID-19, the former Clemson Tiger has wasted no time getting to know Incognito and try to pick his brain about technique.
"I've met with Richie a few times," Simspons shared, "Me and him have actually hung out a few times, and he's a really good guy. He shows me the ropes of everything. He shows me what he needs to do — he's been in the league going on 15 years I think. He's a guy that I definitely look up to because he plays like how I want to play."
Dabo Swinney has been a coach at Clemson for nearly two decades and during those 18 years, he's seen few offensive linemen with the pedigree of talent John Simpson possesses. If Simpson can combine his athletic gifts with Incognito's technique and dominance, there's no question he'll be a force for years to come.
In the time Incognito's spent with the 23-year-old guard, the veteran's recognized the desire to learn more in the eager Simpson.
"John is a good kid, he has a good head on his shoulders," Incognito said. "He works hard, he cares about football. I've worked with him on technique as much as I can to get him up to speed on the pro level. He's been working hard, he's been making improvements, and the future looks bright for the young guy."
Unfortunately, the two haven't been able to spend more time together because of the virtual offseason, which has put the recently signed free agents, but especially the rookie class at a major disadvantage.
"They started out swimming upstream," Incognito explained. "They were having a little bit of a rough outing, but they're working hard and every day they're making small improvements. They're trying to get up to the rest of the offensive line. We're all veterans, we've all played a lot of football, and we're all coming along nicely."
Simpson has been given something very few players ever experience and that's the opportunity to learn from the player they idolize, but even though Incognito's words of wisdom have proved fruitful for him, offensive line coach Tom Cable has also played an influential role.
Tom Cable is known for demanding his offensive linemen to play with grit and violence in the trenches. Everyone wants to play to their strengths and Cable's philosophy aligns perfectly with Simpson's goals.
"He's a great coach first and foremost," Simpson said. "He loves his violent offensive linemen, he loves it when we bury people, he loves when we finish. He expects nothing but perfection from us. He wants us to be great and be the best offensive line in the league, and I love that, I expect all coaches to be like that."
Incognito was snubbed of a Pro Bowl selection last year, but if you ask any player, it's no secret that he's one of the best guards in football. One day, Simpson hopes to be regarded in the same light, and fortunately for him he has a guide to help him navigate the path.
View photos as the Raiders hit the practice fields at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in preparation for the 2020 season.