Spotlight: Former Jefferson basketball standout remains close to the sport, city he loves most

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ROCKFOD, ILL (WTVO/WQRF) — Rockford native Dion Simpson was in the late 80’s a standout on the Jefferson High School Basketball court.

“We had a lot of great basketball players and actually I would play against some of the older guys when I was younger, and I think that was how my game developed,” said Simpson. “It was good because I would get knocked down and wasn’t as strong as some of the bigger guys, but when I started playing with some of the guys that were my age in my bracket then I was able to dominate.”

And dominate is exactly what he did.

“I had my career high at Beloit Memorial. I think I scored 42 points, and that was probably my most memorable moment,” Simpson said. “It was about the best game, I couldn’t miss a shot. It was probably one of the best moments I had in the NIC-9.”

Attending Jefferson in 1986, throughout his four years Simpson racked up 1,291 points, and 611 career rebounds. Both setting new school records.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. They stopped the game, and they came and gave me the ball,” Simpson said. “I mean, the whole crowd, the whole stadium just stood up in applause and it was just like yesterday, I remember it like it was yesterday, yeah.”

As it stands, Simpson’s 1,291 points have been topped a few times. His points total now sits fourth all-time, but his 611 rebounds remain untouched at the top.

Since his playing days, Simpson has found another way to stay close to the game he loves. Refereeing.

“Whatever way I can have an impact on the community. Whatever way I can have an impact on students. I mean refereeing really keeps me connected to the kids. I’m able to give them little life lessons and help them improve their game,” said Simpson. “Unofficially this is probably like my 25th season, I’ve been doing it for a long time. I was getting injured so much when I was playing in my later years so I was like I still want to be involved with the game without limping home every night, so the next thing was, ‘how about I get into officiating. So I was still able to be connected to the game, and be a part of the game. I actually have the best seat in the house.”

Over the years, Simpson had the chance to live elsewhere, but, as he states, Rockford is his home. That’s why he loves giving back to his community.

“I would say the thing that I’m most proud of that I’m able to give back is fairness,” he said. “I just feel like in life, a lot of times, there’s going to be inequality, and it’s not going to be fair, but this is the one opportunity where I can give all players, of all ethnicities, the opportunity to have a fair game, a fair dealing.”

Whether you bump into him on the street, or in the gymnasium, Dion Simpson does his best to make everyone feel important.

“Whatever way I can have an impact on anybody. I just want to leave an impact as a good person who wasn’t perfect, but strived for perfection,” said Simpson.

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