The University of Albany community and the broader sports world are mourning the sudden loss of Amitral “AJ” Simon, a talented defensive lineman who died just a week before he might have been selected in the NFL draft. At 25, Simon had completed a standout season with the University of Albany’s Great Danes and was looking forward to pursuing a professional career in football. His former university praised him not only for his athletic prowess but also for his character, describing him as a “tremendous young man” and a “better teammate,” whose impact transcended the playing field.

Simon’s death has left many unanswered questions, as the cause has not been disclosed. His passing is particularly poignant given his recent activities aimed at advancing his football career, including a pre-draft visit to New England. The university’s statement emphasized Simon’s role as a role model and pillar of the Great Danes, highlighting the deep sense of loss felt by his teammates and coaches.

Simon’s Legacy and Career Highlights

During his time at the University of Albany, Simon made significant contributions to the team’s defense, impressing fans and scouts alike with 12.5 sacks and more than 20 tackles in his last season. His performance on the field was matched by his achievements off it, as he was named to the Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll by the Coastal Athletic Association, recognizing his dedication to maintaining a high academic standard alongside his athletic commitments.

Simon’s journey and aspirations were well-known within the college football community. He openly expressed his gratitude and excitement about his time with the Great Danes and his future prospects, announcing his decision to enter the NFL draft with heartfelt words about his collegiate experience. Albany head coach Greg Gattuso reflected on coaching Simon as a “joyous” experience and expressed his condolences, emphasizing the profound personal and professional impact Simon had made during his time at the university.