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NFL Countdown: The curious case of OJ Simpson

The running back at the 133rd Kentucky Derby - Derby Day - May 5, 2007
The running back at the 133rd Kentucky Derby - Derby Day - May 5, 2007

OJ Simpson was one of the best running backs the NFL has ever seen, but many feel his career was tarnished by what happened post his football career.

Let's start with his NFL career. Drafted as the first-overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, Simpson had a slow start to his professional career. During his rookie season, he only rushed for 697 yards and two touchdowns in his 13 games, but was, however, still named to the Pro Bowl. The next two years followed a similar form line as he rushed for 1,230 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The 1972 season was when Simpson took off and dominated the NFL. The running back totaled 1,291 rushing yards and six touchdowns as he broke out. He was rewarded with an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection while coming third in the league's MVP voting.

The 1972 season would kickstart the first of five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons for the running back.

November 26, 1968. OJ Simpson (USC) is awarded the Heisman Trophy.That season ‘The Juice’ would score 23 touchdowns over 11 games and average 190 yards from scrimmage per game. He would go on to be the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. https://t.co/4KmQRVse3Y

The following season (1973), he obliterated the league. In his 14 games, Simpson rushed for 2,003 yards and 12 touchdowns as he averaged 143.1 rushing yards per game. He was named the NFL MVP for the season along with Offensive Player of the Year and was yet again an All-Pro and Pro Bowler.

The star running back would then follow up the 1973 season with three more consecutive 1000+ yard campaigns. He was naturally an All-Pro and top-four candidate in the MVP voting each year.

#OTD in 1974 Buffalo Bills running back OJ Simpson is unanimously named UPI NFL Most Valuable Player after his 2003 yard rushing season, one day after receiving the Associated Press MVP award. https://t.co/60KecoXgx1

After the 1976 season, Simpson was growing old for a running back, being 30 years of age, and his stats echoed as much. In his last three years, he would not surpass 600 rushing yards and only scored four touchdowns across those three seasons. He retired as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, after spending nine years with the Bills and two with the 49ers.


Simpson and his post football life made headlines

The Former Running Back Granted Parole At Hearing
The Former Running Back Granted Parole At Hearing

The former running back was tried for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, who were stabbed to death at Nicole's home. The trial was massive as most of it was televised and available to the public.

28 Years Ago Today: The OJ Simpson Car Chase during the NBA Finals https://t.co/ivFWEN0gct

The running back initially became a person of interest and hid in the back of a utility vehicle after finding out the police wanted to question him. Over 95 million people watched the car chase, which ended at his home in California.

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The trial lasted eight months before Simpson was acquitted. However, he was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the victims' families after he was found liable for Nicole and Goldman's deaths, per britannica.com.

Nonetheless, this wasn't the Hall of Famer's only run-in with the law. Years later, he led five men in an armed robbery in Las Vegas and was sentenced to nine years in prison, ultimately released in 2017.

Despite his superb on-field efforts during his time in the NFL, his off-field issues with the law are what most will remember him for.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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