Simpson a football, basketball walk-on at Oklahoma State University
Cherokee Nation citizen Gabe Simpson says he enjoys the challenges of balancing his coursework with membership on two athletic teams at Oklahoma State University. PISTOLSFIRINGBLOG.COM
Cherokee Nation citizen Gabe Simpson is a successful walk-on player for Oklahoma State University’s football and basketball programs. COURTESY
STILLWATER – Gabe Simpson was certainly a decorated athlete during his years at Jay High School and was expected to further his achievements in college, but he has now added another accolade, even if it doesn’t include any official recognition.
As a freshman, Simpson successfully walked on to the Oklahoma State University football and basketball rosters. It seems he is the only current football-basketball walk-on in all of NCAA Division I athletics.
“I wanted to see how I measured up to other collegiate athletes, considering I played (both sports) in high school,” the Cherokee Nation citizen said. “And I wanted to balance time for everything between football workouts, basketball practice and homework.”
Simpson signed with the Cowboys for the same reasons he played for the Jay Bulldogs. He wants to compete, and he enjoys challenges. As a walk-on, there is no athletic scholarship money involved.
“I am definitely just always striving to push myself a little further than I thought I could,” Simpson said. “I would love to receive a scholarship, but I don’t need one since I have the Bill Gates Scholarship.”
The Gates Scholarship is among the most sought-after scholarships offered to qualified high school seniors. It covers all educational expenses for academically successful minority students who are eligible for federal Pell grants and have demonstrated leadership skills. Each year, about 30,000 students from across the U.S. apply for the scholarship, and in 2018, Simpson was one of 300 who received the award.
With an eye on a possible medical career, Simpson is in a pre-med curriculum, majoring in chemistry. He plays safety on the gridiron and forward on the court. At Jay, he was a two-sport academic all-state athlete, an all-star by class and a district MVP in football. As a senior quarterback, he threw for 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, while on defense he amassed 60 tackles and eight interceptions.
When being recruited, Simpson was sought by many Division II football programs, and a few Division I schools. OSU offered him preferred status as a walk-on, which tilted the school into Simpson’s favor.
The OSU basketball roster lists Simpson as 6-3, 208 pounds. He was the first prospective player added to the roster after coach Mike Boynton held walk-on tryouts on Jan. 17.
On Feb. 13, Simpson made his first appearance for the team in its 78-50 loss to Texas Tech at Gallagher-Iba Arena. He accounted for an offensive rebound.
Simpson said he is handling the demands presented by many responsibilities, adding that “college is really all about time management and still having fun.”
He is also an ambassador for his tribe, ready to tell about the Cherokee Nation and its people.
“Being Cherokee helped me receive the Gates Scholarship and gave me the opportunity to attend this university,” he said. “I am always asked by players not from around Oklahoma about my race, and when I tell them Cherokee, they always have a lot of questions. It’s good to be able to share that with them.”
Simpson could also be considered an example of perseverance, and being neither limited nor discouraged by a lack of recognition.
“I want to let all kids who haven’t been highly recruited, because they don’t attend all these camps to get stars or ranked, to not give up,” Simpson said. “You have the ability to use your brain to keep playing, and get yourself in the door to show what you have. Don’t hesitate.”