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O. J. Simpson
refer to caption
Simpson in 1990
No. 32
Position: Running back
Personal information
Born: (1947-07-09)July 9, 1947
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died: April 10, 2024(2024-04-10) (aged 76)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school: Galileo
(San Francisco, California)
College: CCSF (1965–1966)
USC (1967–1968)
NFL Draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • NFL Most Valuable Player (1973)
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1973)
  • 5× First-team All-Pro (1972–1976)
  • Pro Bowl (1972–1976)
  • AFL All-Star (1969)
  • Bert Bell Award (1973)
  • AP Athlete of the Year (1973)
  • 3× UPI AFC Offensive Player of the Year (1972, 1973, 1975)
  • 4× NFL rushing yards leader (1972, 1973, 1975, 1976)
  • 2× NFL rushing touchdowns leader (1973, 1975)
  • NFL scoring leader (1975)
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame
  • USC Trojans No. 32 retired
  • National champion (1967)
  • Heisman Trophy (1968)
  • Maxwell Award (1968)
  • Walter Camp Award (1967)
  • 2× UPI Player of the Year (1967, 1968)
  • SN Player of the Year (1968)
  • 2× Unanimous All-American (1967, 1968)
  • 2× First-team All-Pac-8 (1967, 1968)
  • NJCAA All-American (1966)
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards: 11,236
Rushing average: 4.7
Rushing touchdowns: 61
Receptions: 203
Receiving yards: 2,142
Receiving touchdowns: 14
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

Orenthal James Simpson (July 9, 1947 – April 10, 2024) was an American football player, actor, and broadcaster. He played in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons, primarily with the Buffalo Bills, and is regarded as one of the greatest running backs of all time.

Simpson played college football for the USC Trojans, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a senior, and was selected first overall by the Bills in the 1969 NFL/AFL draft. During his nine seasons with the Bills, he received five consecutive Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections from 1972 to 1976. He also led the league in rushing yards four times, in rushing touchdowns twice, and in points scored in 1975. In 1973, he became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, earning him NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), and is the only NFL player to do so in a 14-game regular season. He holds the record for the single-season yards-per-game average at 143.1. After retiring with the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, he pursued an acting and broadcasting career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

Simpson's professional success was overshadowed by his trial and controversial acquittal for the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994.

In 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. In 2008, he was convicted and sentenced to 33 years' imprisonment, with a minimum of nine years without parole. He served his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada. He was granted parole in July 2017, released from prison in October, and granted early release from his parole in December 2021 by the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. He died from prostate cancer on April 10, 2024, at the age of 76.

Early life

Born in 1947 and raised in San Francisco, California, Simpson was a son of Eunice (née Durden), a hospital administrator, and Jimmy Lee Simpson. His father reportedly worked as an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank and as a onetime bank custodian. His father was also a well-known drag queen in the San Francisco Bay Area. Later in life, Jimmy Simpson announced that he was gay. He died of AIDS in 1986.

Simpson's maternal grandparents were from Louisiana. His aunt gave him the name Orenthal, which she said was the name of a French actor she liked. He was called "O.J." from birth and did not know that Orenthal was his given name until a teacher read it in third grade. Simpson had one brother, Melvin Leon "Truman" Simpson, one living sister, Shirley Simpson-Baker, and one deceased sister, Carmelita Simpson-Durio. As a child, Simpson developed rickets and wore braces on his legs until the age of five, giving him his bowlegged stance.

After his parents separated in 1952, Simpson and his sister were raised by their mother.

OJ 1964
Simpson's 1964 school portrait

Simpson grew up in San Francisco and lived with his family in the housing projects of the Potrero Hill neighborhood. At Galileo High School (now Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) in San Francisco, Simpson played for the school football team, the Galileo Lions. He graduated in 1965.

College football and athletics career

Although Simpson was an All-City football player at Galileo, his mediocre high-school grades prevented him from attracting the interest of many college recruiters. After a childhood friend's injury in the Vietnam War influenced Simpson to stay out of the military, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco in 1965. He played football both ways as a running back and defensive back and was named to the Junior College All-American team as a running back. City College won the Prune Bowl against Long Beach State, and many colleges sought Simpson as a transfer student for football.

Simpson chose to attend the University of Southern California (USC), which he had admired as a young football fan, over the University of Utah. He played running back with the Trojans for head coach John McKay in 1967 and 1968. Simpson led the nation in rushing both years under McKay: in 1967 with 1,543 yards and 13 touchdowns, and in 1968 with 1,880 yards on 383 carries.

As a junior in 1967, Simpson was a close runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting to quarterback Gary Beban of UCLA. In that year's Victory Bell rivalry game between the teams, USC was down by six points in the fourth quarter with under 11 minutes remaining. On their own 36, USC backup quarterback Toby Page called an audible on third and seven. Simpson's 64-yard touchdown run tied the score, and the extra point provided a 21–20 lead, which was the final score. This was the biggest play in what is regarded as one of the greatest football games of the 20th century.

Another dramatic touchdown in the same game is the subject of the Arnold Friberg oil painting, O.J. Simpson Breaks for Daylight. Simpson also won the Walter Camp Award in 1967 and was a two-time unanimous All-American.

Simpson was an aspiring track athlete; in 1967, he lost a 100 m race at Stanford University against the then-British record holder Menzies Campbell. Prior to playing football at USC, he ran in the sprint relay quartet that broke the world record in the 4 × 110-yard relay at the NCAA track championships in Provo, Utah on June 17, 1967.

As a senior in 1968, Simpson rushed for 1,709 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season, earning the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Award. He held the record for the Heisman's largest margin of victory for 51 years, defeating runner-up Leroy Keyes by 1,750 points. In the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, #2 USC faced top-ranked Ohio State; Simpson ran for 171 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run, in a 27–16 loss.

College statistics

Season Rushing Receiving
Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
1967 291 1,543 5.3 13 10 109 10.9 0
1968 383 1,880 4.9 23 26 211 8.1 0
Totals 674 3,423 5.1 36 36 320 8.9 0

Professional football career

Buffalo Bills

The first selection in the 1969 AFL–NFL Common Draft was held by the AFL's Buffalo Bills, after finishing 1–12–1 in 1968. They took Simpson, but he demanded the largest contract in professional sports history: $650,000 over five years. This led to a standoff with Bills' owner Ralph Wilson, as Simpson threatened to become an actor and skip professional football. Eventually, Wilson agreed to pay Simpson.

Simpson entered professional football with high expectations, but struggled in his first three years, averaging only 622 yards per season. Bills coach John Rauch, not wanting to build an offense around one running back, assigned Simpson to do blocking and receiving duties at the expense of running the ball. In 1971, Rauch resigned as head coach, and the Bills brought in Harvey Johnson. Despite Johnson devising a new offense for Simpson, Simpson was still ineffective that year. After the 1971 season, the Bills fired Johnson and brought in Lou Saban as head coach. Unlike Rauch, Saban made Simpson the centerpiece of the Bills offense.

1986 Jeno's Pizza - 29 - O.J. Simpson (O.J. Simpson crop)
Simpson breaks the NFL's single-season rushing record in 1973

In 1972, Simpson rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, gaining a league-leading total of 1,251 yards. In 1973, Simpson became the first player to break the highly coveted 2,000 yard rushing mark, with 2,003 total rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Simpson broke the mark during the last game of the season against the New York Jets with a seven-yard rush. That same game also saw Simpson break Jim Brown's single-season rushing record of 1,863 yards. For his performance, Simpson won that year's NFL MVP Award and Bert Bell Award. While other players have broken the 2,000-yard mark since Simpson, his record was established when the NFL had only 14 games per season, as opposed to the 16-game seasons that began in 1978. As of 2013, Simpson still holds the rushing record for 14 games.

Simpson gained over 1,000 rushing yards in the next three seasons. He did not lead the league in rushing in 1974, but did cross the 1,000-yard barrier despite a knee injury. In game 11 of 1974, he passed Ken Willard as the rushing leader among active players, a position he maintained until his retirement more than five seasons later. Simpson also made his first and only playoff appearance during the 1974 season. In a divisional game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Simpson rushed for 49 yards on 15 attempts and caught a touchdown pass, but the Bills lost the game 32–14. Simpson won the rushing title again in 1975, rushing for 1,817 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also had a career-high 426 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns that season.

Simpson again led the league in rushing in 1976, rushing for 1,503 yards and eight touchdowns. He had the best game of his career during that season's Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions on November 25. In that game, Simpson rushed for a then-record 273 yards on 29 attempts and scored two touchdowns. Despite Simpson's performance, the Bills would lose the game 27–14.

A low light that season came during a game against the Patriots a few weeks earlier when defensive end Mel Lunsford and several other Patriots defenders stuffed the superstar running back for no gain. Still, as Simpson tried to continue driving forward, Lunsford bodyslammed him to the ground. Simpson got up and punched Lunsford, which prompted Lunsford to swing back. Bills offensive lineman Reggie McKenzie then jumped on Lunsford's back. Still, Lunsford bent down and flung McKenzie over his head. He went back to swinging at Simpson before a melee of the two teams stopped the fight and ended up in a pile on the field. Lunsford and Simpson were ejected from the game as the Patriots' solid defense persisted, with New England winning 20–10 to finish the 1976 season 11–3. The Bills finished 2–12.

Simpson played only seven games in 1977, as his season was cut short by injury.

San Francisco 49ers

Before the 1978 season, the Bills traded Simpson to his hometown San Francisco 49ers for a series of draft picks. Simpson played in San Francisco for two seasons, rushing for 1,053 yards and four touchdowns. His final NFL game was on December 16, 1979, a 31–21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. His final play was a 10-yard run on 3rd and 10 for a first down.

Career summary

Simpson gained 11,236 rushing yards, placing him 2nd on the NFL's all-time rushing list when he retired; he now stands at 21st. He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1973, and played in six Pro Bowls. He was the only player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a 14-game season and he is the only player to rush for over 200 yards in six different games in his career. From 1972 to 1976, Simpson averaged 1,540 rushing yards per (14 game) season, 5.1 yards per carry, and he won the NFL rushing title four times. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility. In 2019, he was named to the National Football League 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Simpson also occasionally returned kickoffs in his early career, finishing with 33 returns for 990 yards and a touchdown, an average of 30 yards per return.

Simpson played in only one playoff game during his 11-season Hall of Fame career: a 1974 Divisional Round game between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Simpson was held to 49 rushing yards on fifteen carries to go with three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown as the Bills lost 32–14.

Simpson acquired the nickname "Juice" as a play on "O.J.", a common abbreviation for orange juice. "Juice" is also a colloquial synonym for electricity or electrical power, and hence a metaphor for any powerful entity; the Bills' offensive line at Simpson's peak was nicknamed "The Electric Company".

NFL career statistics

NFL record
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fum
GP GS Att Yds Avg Lng TD Y/G A/G Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Y/G R/G
1969 BUF 13 0 181 697 3.9 32 2 53.6 13.9 30 343 11.4 55 3 26.4 2.3 6
1970 BUF 8 8 120 488 4.1 56 5 61.0 15.0 10 139 13.9 36 0 17.4 1.3 6
1971 BUF 14 14 183 742 4.1 46 5 53.0 13.1 21 162 7.7 38 0 11.6 1.5 5
1972 BUF 14 14 292 1,251 4.3 94 6 89.4 20.9 27 198 7.3 25 0 14.1 1.9 8
1973 BUF 14 14 332 2,003 6.0 80 12 143.1 23.7 6 70 11.7 24 0 5.0 0.4 7
1974 BUF 14 14 270 1,125 4.2 41 3 80.4 19.3 15 189 12.6 29 1 13.5 1.1 7
1975 BUF 14 14 329 1,817 5.5 88 16 129.8 23.5 28 426 15.2 64 7 30.4 2.0 7
1976 BUF 14 13 290 1,503 5.2 75 8 107.4 20.7 22 259 11.8 43 1 18.5 1.6 6
1977 BUF 7 7 126 557 4.4 39 0 79.6 18.0 16 138 8.6 18 0 19.7 2.3 2
1978 SF 10 10 161 593 3.7 34 1 59.3 16.1 21 172 8.2 19 2 17.2 2.1 5
1979 SF 13 8 120 460 3.8 22 3 35.4 9.2 7 46 6.6 14 0 3.5 0.5 3
Career 135 116 2,404 11,236 4.7 94 61 83.2 17.8 203 2,142 10.6 64 14 15.9 1.5 62

NFL records

  • Fastest player to gain 1,000 rushing yards in season: 1,025 in seven games in 1973 and 1,005 in seven games in 1975 (tied with Terrell Davis).
  • Fastest player to gain 2,000 rushing yards in season: 2,003 in 14 games in 1973.
  • Most rushing yards per game in a season: 143.1 per game in 1973.

Acting career

Simpson began acting while at USC and appeared on Dragnet in an uncredited role as a potential recruit to the LAPD. He became a professional actor before playing professional football, appearing in the first episode of Medical Center while negotiating his contract with the Bills. While in the NFL, Simpson appeared in productions such as the television miniseries Roots (1977), and the dramatic motion pictures The Klansman (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Cassandra Crossing (1976), and Capricorn One (1978). In 1979, he started his own film production company, Orenthal Productions, which dealt mostly in made-for-TV fare such as the family-oriented Goldie and the Boxer films with Melissa Michaelsen (1979 and 1981).

Simpson said that he did not seriously consider an acting career until seeing Lee Marvin and Richard Burton, while filming The Klansman in Oroville, California, ordering chili from Chasen's via private jet. He said in 1980 that "The Oscar or the Emmy says you've reached a level of competence in this business, and I would love to have one". Simpson avoided starring in blaxploitation films, choosing third or fourth lead roles while studying experienced stars like Marvin and Burton. The Hertz commercials from 1975 benefited Simpson's acting career but he sometimes intentionally chose non-positive roles; "I've got to tear down that picture of O.J. Simpson, the clean-cut athlete, to get believability into whatever part I happen to be playing". Simpson also made a cameo in the comedic Back to the Beach (1987). He played Det. Nordberg in all three entries of The Naked Gun film trilogy (1988, 1991, 1994) alongside Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley and George Kennedy. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Simpson was considered by director James Cameron to play the eponymous character in The Terminator (1984) when Schwarzenegger was cast as Kyle Reese, but Cameron ultimately cast Schwarzenegger as the Terminator while Simpson had no involvement in the film.

Besides his acting career, Simpson worked as a commentator for Monday Night Football and The NFL on NBC. He also appeared in the audience of Saturday Night Live during its second season and hosted an episode during its third season.


Year Film Role Notes
1968 Ironside Onlooker—uncredited
Dragnet 1968 Student—uncredited
1969 Medical Center Bru Wiley TV episode "The Last 10 Yards"
The Dream of Hamish Mose Unknown Unreleased film
1971 Why? The Athlete Short film
1972 Cade's County Jeff Hughes TV episode "Blackout"
1973 Here's Lucy Himself TV episode "The Big Game"
1974 The Klansman Garth
O. J. Simpson: Juice on the Loose Himself TV documentary
The Towering Inferno Jernigan
1976 The Cassandra Crossing Haley
Killer Force Alexander
1977 A Killing Affair Woodrow York TV
Roots Kadi Touray
1978 Capricorn One Cmdr. John Walker
Saturday Night Live Host TV (February 25, 1978)
1979 Firepower Catlett
Goldie and the Boxer Joe Gallagher TV (executive producer)
1980 Detour to Terror Lee Hayes TV (executive producer)
1981 Goldie and the Boxer Go to Hollywood Joe Gallagher TV (executive producer)
1983 Hambone and Hillie Tucker
1985–91 1st & Ten T.D. Parker Five episodes
1987 Back to the Beach Man at Airport Uncredited
Student Exchange Soccer Coach TV
1988 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Detective Nordberg
1989 In the Heat of the Night Councilman Lawson Stiles TV episode "Walkout"
1991 The Naked Gun 2+12: The Smell of Fear Detective Nordberg
1993 Adventures in Wonderland Himself TV episode "White Rabbits Can't Jump", unaired
CIA Code Name: Alexa Nick Murphy
For Goodness Sake Man in restaurant Simpson was edited out of later releases
No Place to Hide Allie Wheeler
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Detective Nordberg
Frogmen John 'Bullfrog' Burke Unaired TV movie
2006 Juiced with O. J. Simpson Himself TV pay-per-view
2011 Jail Himself TV, Season 2, Episode 18
2018 Who Is America? Himself TV, Episode 7

Personal life

O.J. Simpson (1986)2
Simpson with his daughter, Sydney Brooke, in 1986

On June 24, 1967, at age 19, Simpson married Marguerite L. Whitley. Together, they had three children: Arnelle L. Simpson (b. 1968), Jason Lamar Simpson (b. 1970), and Aaren Lashone Simpson (1977–1979).

Simpson met Nicole Brown in 1977 while she was working as a waitress at a Beverly Hills nightclub called The Daisy. Although still married to his first wife, Simpson began dating Brown. Simpson and Marguerite divorced in March 1979.

Brown and Simpson were married on February 2, 1985, five years after his retirement from professional football. The couple had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson (b. 1985) and Justin Ryan Simpson (b. 1988). The marriage lasted seven years. Brown filed for divorce on February 25, 1992, citing irreconcilable differences.

In 1995, after his acquittal for murder, Simpson began a relationship with Christie Prody, which lasted for 13 years.

Illness and death

In May 2023, Simpson reported that he had been diagnosed with cancer and expressed confidence that he would beat it. In February 2024, it was reported that Simpson was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. He died of the disease on April 10, 2024, at the age of 76.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: O. J. Simpson para niños

  • List of NCAA major college football yearly rushing leaders
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