NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Minicamp

Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach Jess Simpson on the field during last season’s minicamp at the Falcons’ Training Complex.

With high school athletics nearing a restart amid uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic and racial tension, Jess Simpson offered some advice to coaches on social media.

The Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach spent 22 years as a high school football coach at Buford, including 12 as head coach. He won seven state championships as head coach with the Wolves, and three more titles as defensive coordinator before coaching college football with the Miami Hurricanes and NFL football with the Falcons. He played high school football at Marietta for legendary coach Dexter Wood, who later became his boss at Buford.

The Georgia High School Association has permitted schools to begin on-campus training — with strict guidelines — beginning June 8.

“I’m fired up that the GHSA and other states are allowing training to begin in the next few weeks for high school athletes,” Simpson wrote. “I know my life was powerfully impacted by coaches who spoke truth and poured into me as a young man.

“Over the past three months — during an incredibly tough time — I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how high school kids all over this country have been separated from the folks that in many cases have the greatest impact on their lives daily — their coaches, teachers and administrators — and they need us now more than ever.”

Simpson then offered the following guidance to coaches for when players return:

♦ More than training, more than skills development, more than teaching them ball … They need us to Listen — we are all hurting and they need to be able to express themselves to men and women they respect.

♦ They need us to Acknowledge — the Truth! Our kids need to know that we know that there is a real problem.

♦ They need us to be Patient — like us they are emotional, confused and angry at what they have witnessed and seen — they need empathy, not an extra lap.

♦ They need to See US — love on each other, listen to each other, serve each other, care for one another and show regard and respect to one another — “and the greatest of these is Love.”

♦ They need Wise Counsel — you may be one of the only voices of reason in their life today.

♦ For our country to change it will have to start in the hearts of men and women like us — because at the root of all of this is a heart problem.

♦ So be intentional — it will take hard and transparent conversations — if we want our youth to be the change that this world needs, they have to see us be different. We have the greatest job in the world and it comes with the greatest responsibility.

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