Amitral “AJ” Simon Jr., Albany Great Danes

AJ Simon Jr., Promising Football Player, Dies Before NFL Draft

Simon was fondly remembered by his teammates.

Amitral “AJ” Simon Jr., who starred at the University of Albany during the Great Danes team’s run in the 2023 FCS playoffs, died on April 17 at 25 years old. No cause of death has been reported, but Simon was conducting pre-draft visits to teams ahead of the NFL Draft, which will be held this year from April 25 to 27.

As The Athletic reports, the University of Albany posted a tribute to Simon on its Twitter/X account.

“The UAlbany football program was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student-athlete Amitral ‘AJ’ Simon this morning,” the post read. “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. He will be profoundly missed.”

Simon was fondly remembered by his teammates and former head coach, Greg Gattuso, who described the two years he spent coaching and becoming closer to Simon as “joyous” in his Twitter/X post. 

Simon, who recorded 12.5 sacks in 2023, was also named to 2023’s All-CAA defensive team, the Phil Steele All-CAA first team, and an FCS Football Central First Team All-American. In addition to these on-field honors, he was also named to the 2023 Fall CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.

In announcing his declaration for the NFL Draft, Simon credited the coaching staff for its guidance and mentorship on his path.

“The dedication and commitment of the coaching staff, the valuable resources, and the unwavering support system have been instrumental in my growth as a player. Their guidance has been pivotal in shaping my path toward this momentous decision to enter the NFL Draft.”

Simon concluded, “Thank you once again for everything. I am truly honored to have been a part of the Purple Fam and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. I am thrilled to represent the University at Albany as I take this next step in my football career. Sad that it’s over, but grateful that it happened. With that being said, I will be entering my name in the 2024 NFL Draft!”

People Magazine reports that several tributes to Simon came pouring in via social media. Although there has been no official cause of death reported, some accounts on Twitter/X have speculated that he died due to a heart attack. A GoFundMe has been set up by Dominique Simon, his sister, which has exceeded its original $30,000 funding request. According to the fundraiser, Simon’s funeral services are set for April 29 at Pocono Community Church in his hometown of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. 

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