FLOWERY BRANCH - It's been quite the football fast-track for Jess Simspon.
"To tell you that I thought I'd be coaching in the NFL anytime soon, heck no," said Simpson. "There's no way I would've thought that or believed that."
Yet, here he is, decked out in Falcons gear after a decade of donning Buford logos. The 7-time state champion coach at Buford decided in December, after his 12th season leading the program, to move on. That was in large part because his youngest son had just wrapped up his senior season with the Wolves, and it worked out that new Georgia State football coach Shawn Elliott needed someone to coach his defensive line.
Simpson took the job, commuting into Atlanta every day during the hectic recruiting season. Then, after National Signing Day, the phone rang.
"Went through recruiting, this kind of came out of the blue in February with DQ," said Simpson, referring to Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
Quinn offered Simpson a spot on his staff as a defensive assistant, working primarily with the defensive line. Simpson says it's been an adjustment to the speed and intricacy of the NFL.
"All coaches know, winning is in the details," said Simpson. "The details here are on level obviously I had never experiences as a high school coach. Listening to these guys talk offense, defense, kicking game. How methodical it is. It's incredible."
The rare leap from high school to the NFL (with a "cup of coffee" as a college coach, Simpson notes) traces back to Quinn's days at the University of Florida. He recruited several Buford players during his tenure in Gainesville, and saw something he liked in the Wolves' head coach.
"Right away I could tell, not only how smart he was, the passion he had for coaching," said Quinn. "He was always somebody I was going to keep my eye on."
The timing couldn't have been better; appropriate for a coach that feels most at home on the turf teaching his charges how to get a great burst at the snap of the ball. Simpson is thankful Georgia State allowed him to take advantage of a great opportunity, all the more special just down the road from his home and from the place he won about 93% of his high school games.
"I'm blessed, I've been lucky," said Simpson. "Just around a bunch of great guys. Having an opportunity of a lifetime as a lifetime high school coach, this is pretty neat."