Star college football player and NFL Draft hopeful Amitral 'AJ' Simon dead at 25

 April 18, 2024

A star college football who was projected to be picked in next week's NFL Draft was revealed to have suddenly died this week.

Amitral "AJ" Simon, 25, a top pass-rushing defensive lineman at the University of Albany in New York, passed away Wednesday morning of an undisclosed cause, according to Fox News.

He had just been visited last week by the New England Patriots and was expected to either be drafted in the late rounds or to be signed as an undrafted free agent.

A "tremendous young man" and "role model" for others

The University of Albany's football team posted a tribute photo of Simon on social media on Wednesday along with a statement that said, "The UAlbany football program was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Amitral 'AJ' Simon this morning."

"AJ was a tremendous young man and even better teammate throughout his time at UAlbany. He was a role model both on and off the field, serving as a pillar to this program over the last two years," the statement added. "He will be profoundly missed."

Those posts were then shared by Albany Coach Greg Gattuso, who wrote, "Two joyous year coaching and becoming friends with AJ Simon. My prayers are dedicated to the Simon family. I love you AJ and will always have a special place in my heart for #8."

"Will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him"

People magazine reported that condolences and tributes flowed for Simon from several of his former teams, coaches, and teammates following the news of his untimely death at age 25.

Simon had been a standout defensive player at Pocono Mountain West High School in Pennsylvania before he began his collegiate football career at Bloomsburg University, also located in Pennsylvania, where he was also a star player before transferring to New York's University of Albany for his junior and senior years.

The Bloomsburg Huskies said the program was "saddened to hear" of Simon's death and that "AJ was not only a tremendous player, but an even better teammate and person. He was a role model during his time here at Bloomsburg and will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him."

Top collegiate star was projected to continue career in the NFL

People noted that Simon was credited with 55 tackles and 12.5 sacks during his senior season, which earned him the attention of NFL scouts along with a host of conference and division honors for his exceptional play that helped get Albany into the FCS playoffs that year.

He was selected for the 2023 All-CAA defensive first team, made the Phil Steele All-CAA first team, and was an FCS Football Central First Team All-American honoree. Simon also excelled in the classroom as much as on the field, as he earned a spot on the 2023 Fall CAA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll.

Following a stellar performance at a "Pro Day" showcase for NFL scouts last month, Simon's coach Gattuso told a local media outlet that he "could see AJ Simon sneaking into a round late" in the NFL draft.

Simon similarly expressed confidence and humility as he told the newspaper at that time, "The scouts are saying some positive things. You just never know. It’s time to play the waiting game. Just stay in shape. My chances (of being drafted), I feel like they’re pretty high."

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