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Southern Maryland sends two to the NFL

Leonardtown, MD – The Southern Maryland Athletic Conference (SMAC) sent two football players to the NFL this year, Lackey graduate Cortrelle Simpson and Leonardtown grad Jaime Gillan.

The class of 2015 graduates both signed with teams as free agents following the NFL Draft late last month. Simpson, who left the University of Richmond as a redshirt junior, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Gillan, who played all four years at University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, signed with the Cleveland Browns.

From Lackey, Simpson signed with Temple after attracting Division I attention while attending camps the summer before his senior year. Coaches began noticing Simpson after he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at an Ohio State camp. The three-star wide receiver/athlete recruit signed with the Temple Owls, redshirting in 2015. As a redshirt-freshman, Simpson served primarily as a special teams contributor.

Transferring to Richmond following his freshman campaign, Simpson finally saw the field. As a redshirt-junior, the 5-foot-10 wide receiver broke the Spider’s record for most receiving yards (204-yards) in a player’s debut game. Simpson tallied seven catches in the opener versus Sam Houston State, including a 14-yard touchdown catch. He would go on to lead the team in receiving yards (1,019-yards) on 60 catches, averaging just under 100 yards-per-game (92.64 ypg) and raking in six touchdowns. His explosion onto the field in Richmond earned Simpson a spot on the All-CAA Second Team. The Indian Head native returned for his redshirt-junior season and saw a dip in his production. Simpson made seven starts in nine games, leading the team with 36 receptions, 651 yards, and five touchdowns. His efforts earned him a spot on the All-CAA Second Team for a second time. Following his redshirt-junior season, Simpson declared for the NFL Draft, after which, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent.

Simpson signed a 3-year $1.755 million contract with an average annual salary of $585,000 for the Buccaneers.

The second former SMAC football player, Gillan, followed a different path to the league from Simpson. A native to Scotland, Gillan was a rugby player through the age of 16 where he helped lead his boarding school of three years to a Scottish Cup win, the national private school championship. Gillan and his family came to St. Mary’s County when his father, a member of the Royal Air Force, was transferred to Pax River NAS. Gillan originally attended St. Mary’s Ryken before heading to Leonardtown where he played soccer. Halfway through the football season, Gillan caught wind that the team needed a kicker, telling the Post in 2015 that he was confident due to the similar shape of the American football to a rugby ball. At Leonardtown, Gillan kicked off, punted, and kicked field goals/extra points. In just five games, seven of 11 of his kickoffs were touchbacks and Gillan made 12 out of 15 field goals. His teammates gave him the nickname the “Scottish Hammer” and he went on to kick in the PG/SMAC Chik-Fil-A Challenge and the Maryland Crab Bowl.

His limited time on the field was enough to earn himself a scholarship from Bowie State. Gillan initially accepted a full-ride to kick for the Bulldogs, until his friend let him know about Arkansas-Pine’s need for a kicker. Seeing a better opportunity for professional exposure at a Division I-FCS school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Gillan told the Post that he “had never even heard of the state” when he quickly hopped on a plane and signed his full-scholarship.

After four seasons with the Golden Lions, Gillan led the SWAC in 2018, averaging 42.9 yards per punt and tallied 19 punts of 50-yards or more. He also pinned opponents inside of the 20-yard line 27 times while punting and forced 31 touchbacks on kickoff. As a field goal kicker at Pine Bluff, Gillan set the school record on a 52-yard make and went 20 for 29 on field goal attempts. Gillan decided to sign with the Browns on a training camp contract over 20 other inquiries from NFL teams. He said that he chose Cleveland because of special teams coach Mike Priefer, who was in the U.S. Navy, and Browns’ GM John Dorsey who is native to Leonardtown.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.

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