“Van Alstyne athletics will always be a building block of who I am today and for the remainder of my lifetime,” senior Clayton Simpson said in closing out an interview concerning his time as a Panther athlete.


He reminded us that of one of the main goals of interscholastic sports is to help build people, to learn values, to learn to work well with others, and so much more as they launch themselves into adulthood.


As a Van Alstyne High School Panther, Simpson played three sports: football in the fall, and track and tennis in the spring.


“Clayton is a very talented athlete,” head football coach Mikeal Miller said of the teen’s abilities on the field. “He played multiple positions in football and was prepared to do the same for us in track this year. He is one of the friendliest athletes in our program.”


When asked about his sports awards, Simpson listed one. However, it was an award that was not highlighted by postseason success, but rather by preseason work.


Last summer, the school’s athletic departments hosted trainers to workout the students in strength training, agility and speed.


Simpson received the Performance Course Star of the Year award for his work during the off season.


The dedication to show up each day and give his best during each workout is a building block of future success.


Miller went on to say of Simpson’s character: “I used Clayton as an example when our `word of the week’ was integrity.


“We had a Special Olympics event and at the end - when everyone is hot, tired, hungry, thirsty and ready to be done - the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up trash. We were cleaning up and we had assigned several groups to start emptying trash cans, and I (watched) as most of them wandered off to congregate and visit as Clayton Simpson emptied trash can after trash can all by himself. (That) says a lot about how he was raised and his integrity.”


When asked about priorities and performing in the classroom as well as on the field, the teen repeated what he had previously been preached to him.


“As the coaches said throughout my high school career (said), schoolwork comes first and sports comes second. No matter what was due in the classroom, it was always the priority before the sport you played.”


Simpson was quick to mention Ella Burkhalter as a teacher who has made an impact on his life.


“My freshman year biology teacher, Mrs. Burkhalter, had the most significant impact on me because of how engaged she was in being an educator. Even when I wasn’t a student in her class, she still acknowledges me like I was, and she always has the biggest smile on her face every day.“


He also expressed great appreciation for his family support, namely his parents Craig and Lisa.


“They’re the reason why I am here today. Without my mom’s pep talks before and after track meets and football games, and my dad’s little life lessons throughout the season, I don’t think I would be where I am today. Support from them was astronomical, and I cannot thank them enough.”


When asked about his greatest fans beyond his parents, “I’d definitely say, my sisters. If my parents weren’t there for my track meets or football games, my sisters were right there congratulating me or cheering me on.”


Simpson’s fondest memories of competing as a Panther come from football and the bonds formed in the game.


“Friday night lights were just unbeatable. The brotherhood within the team and the locker room shenanigans is just something that can’t be matched with anything else in high school.”


When asked about the cancellation of his senior year of spring sports, he said, “I would say I have handled it pretty well. It definitely stinks, and I would do anything to compete one more time as a Panther.”


The next step for Simpson is to head to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, where he will major in exercise physiology.


“Although my time as a Panther athlete did not end as I wanted it to, I’d have to say these four years have been packed with great memories and fun moments with my coaches and teammates.”


When asked about something he learned from his coaches that the teen would take into life, he said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”