The athletic field at Newark High School now bears the name of the man who turned NHS into a football powerhouse and helped guide the Yellowjackets to nine state championships during his storied career at Newark.
Dozens of former players and others gathered prior to Friday night’s season-opening game for a ceremony naming the field Butch Simpson Field at Bob Hoffman Memorial Stadium.
“Having my name associated with the legendary Bob Hoffman is a story I could never have envisioned when he hired me when I was a 22-year-old right out of college with no coaching experience. He took a chance and gave me an opportunity that led to me standing here tonight,” said Simpson, who retired in 2015 and now lives in Florida.
Simpson came to Newark in 1970 and served as an assistant coach under Hoffman and then as a defensive coordinator on the staffs of Jim Auch and Rocky Rees.
Simpson was the defensive coordinator when Newark won the school’s first football state championship in 1976. The following year, Simpson, at the age of 29, took over as head coach when Rees left to coach at the college level.
“I was able to do what I was meant to do, my calling, for 46 years,” he said.
Simpson estimated that he coached 250 games on the sidelines of the field that now bears his name.
“I love this stadium,” he said. “This was the place to coach. There was no better game night than right here.”
Simpson took time Friday to thank everyone who contributed to Yellowjacket football, including his assistant coaches, the referees, the athletic trainers, sportswriters, the volunteers who kept stats and the alumni who would attend every game. Most of all, though, he gave the credit to his players.
“It all comes down to the players,” he said. “They were the reason for the success of this program.”
Mark Guringo, who played on Simpson’s first team in 1977 and then went on to play at James Madison University, said Simpson was the best coach he had ever played for, both on and off the field.
“You could go to him with anything. He gave me some of the best advice of my life,” Guringo said. “He was a tough coach, but he could be a friend, too. That’s a rare quality.”
Dutch Hoffman, son of Bob Hoffman, said that after Bob died suddenly at the age of 41, Dutch’s relationship with Simpson provided a connection to his father.
“What you’ve meant to our family, what you’ve meant to the family here for the Newark Yellowjackets, that will never be forgotten,” said Hoffman, who also played for Simpson in the 1970s. “The wins and losses will be unmatched. But what will go down in people’s hearts is that it’s been 50 years and I still remember things that you’ve said right here on this field. It’s not the numbers, coach. It’s what you’ve done for our hearts.”