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SZN Opener is back with new episodes dropping every week.

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On Season 2 of this dynamic podcast series, host and noted sports analyst Monica McNutt showcases Black college athletes and explores their triumphs, challenges and aspirations along their sports journeys.

Kayvon Thibodeaux of the New York Giants is our special SZN Opener guest host for the final episode of the season. The NFL linebacker sits down with Jaylin Simpson of Auburn University to talk about closing out his senior season and looking ahead to the NFL Draft.

Simpson leaves Auburn as one of the highest-ranking safeties entering the NFL Draft

Growing up in Brunswick, Georgia, Simpson was an all-around athlete, playing football, basketball, baseball, soccer and track. “I fell in love with football around my sophomore year of high school,” he says. “I just love defense … I ended up getting an offer and the rest is history.”

The Auburn University senior is wrapping up his best season yet. “Overall I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of my team,” Simpson says. “For my senior year, it was fun being a leader to my team and I’m just looking forward to seeing what this next level is like.”

This February, Simpson will play in the 2024 Senior Bowl alongside fellow NFL Draft prospects. Simpson’s skills on the field impressed over his career with the Auburn Tigers, positioning the senior safety as a solid draft pick.

In December, Simpson earned All-SEC honors alongside two of his Tigers teammates, Jarquez Hunter and Rivaldo Fairweather, for their accomplishments on the field.

Declaring for the draft: “I’m ready to get out there and display myself in the best way I can.”

As Simpson shifts his focus beyond college football, the Auburn athlete has a lot to look forward to. “I’m just excited to see myself work and see myself grow,” he says. ​“I’m ready to get it kicked off and get into training, get in a routine, get out there and display myself in the best way I can.”

NY Giants linebacker Thibodeaux offers words of advice and encouragement to Simpson as he navigates this next chapter. From choosing agents, trainers and financial advisers, there’s a lot to manage with stepping into the professional league.

“You want to make sure that you give them every ounce of confidence in you, your ability and your character in who you are as a player and a man,” Thibodeaux says.

“Make sure you’re asking the right questions … make sure you’re cross-referencing,” he adds. “You’re still dealing with people at the end of the day. So whether it’s a trainer, whether it’s an agent, whether it’s a marketing agency—make sure you like the people and you know they can represent you when you’re not in the room.”

Simpson also shares how COVID affected his college experience, what it was like to declare for the 2024 draft, and his mixed feelings about NIL (name, image and likeness).

Catch the full conversation with Jaylin Simpson above. Listen to Episode 7 of SZN Opener Season 2 on the Urban One podcasts platform or your favorite streaming app.