Jay Simpson’s basketball career came to an end on February 23rd, 2014.
With a little more than 12 minutes left in Purdue’s visit to Nebraska, Simpson collapsed during an otherwise normal defensive possession, his knees buckling before he sprawled out at the foul line, signaling to the bench from a prone position.
After the game, Simpson received a litany of tests that told him an unfortunate truth: he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyotrophy.
Less than two weeks after the game, the school announced that Simpson’s career as a basketball player was over.
Simpson recently spoke with the Purdue Exponent about the diagnosis and how it has affected his life:
Simpson said his teammates have helped him cope, bringing them closer in the process.
“The relationship I have with my teammates is a lot deeper now because we all shared that tough moment together,” Simpson said. “It’s more than just teammates on this team — we’re like brothers, family. I love those guys. I appreciate them for being there for me and sticking this whole thing out with me.”
Despite having to give up the game he’s invested his entire life into, Simpson has begun to see the “big picture” Painter alluded to.
“It didn’t really hit me until probably a week or two after (I collapsed),” Simpson said. “I just woke up one morning like ‘Dang, it’s really over.’ When you go your whole life addicted (to basketball) and you put all your time and energy into one thing and in the snap of your fingers it’s gone, it’s never going to be easy to deal with. I’m still dealing with it to this day, but it’s getting better. I’m starting to realize that I’m more than just a basketball player and I want to show the world that.”
To have something you’ve worked towards your entire life ripped away from you in an instant is not an easy thing for anyone to deal with, let alone a college sophomore. But Simpson seems like he’s realizing that there is more to life than just basketball.
It won’t happen immediately, but what happened to Simpson was a good thing. He found out about the potentially deadly disease before it cost him his life. There are many that haven’t been as lucky.