A Look at O.J. Simpson's Career and Life

Football Legend, Actor and Inmate

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson of the Buffalo Bills in action during a game against the Denver Broncos at Rich Stadium in Buffalo, New York. Getty Images/Getty Images Sport

Born Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson in 1947 in San Francisco, California, a life full of fame and promise turned bleak in his later years. Simpson had a legendary college and professional football career, commercial endorsements, acting and broadcasting credits, a beautiful home and adoring children.

Things took a drastic turn for Simpson in 1994 when his ex-wife and her friend were found stabbed to death, and he was the primary suspect.

In what most have dubbed the "Trial of the Century," Simpson was acquitted in a criminal trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but, was found guilty in civil court for their wrongful death. In 2008, he was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery and sentenced to 33 years in prison. 

O.J. Simpson's NFL Career

Simpson remains one of the NFL's greatest running backs of all time. Simpson played football for the University of Southern California, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He led all of college football in rushing yards the two years prior to being drafted by the NFL. He was the first overall pick fo the Buffalo Bills in the 1969 NFL draft. 

Simpson got his chance to shine with the Bills when Lou Saban joined as head coach in 1972. Saban quickly saw the value in making Simpson a workhorse back the Bills' offense could lean on. Before Saban, Simpson had posted a modest career high of 183 carries in his third season.

Afterward, Simpson carried the ball an average of 302 times over the next five seasons.

In his first year under Saban, Simpson posted 1,251 yards on the ground; a very solid showing over the course of a 14-game schedule. In 1973, with perhaps the best season any running back has ever had, Simpson became the first to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark on the ground.

Averaging six yards per carry, he racked up 2,003 rushing yards, making him the only back to surpass 2,000 yards in a 14-game season. While other players had broken the 2,000-yard mark since Simpson, this record happened back when the NFL only had 14-game seasons, as opposed to the 16-game seasons that started in 1978.

Because of his record-setting performance in 1973, Simpson was named NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. He also earned the Bert Bell Award and went on to be named Pro Bowl MVP. He was also named the Associated Press's Male Athlete of the Year.

Simpson's touches and total yards dropped off in 1974, but he bounced back with more than 1,800 yards rushing, 426 yards receiving, and a then-record 23 touchdowns the following season. He then finished off an incredible five-year stretch with 1,503 yards in 1975.

Injury cut Simpson's 1977 season in half, and before the 1978 season the Bills traded him to San Francisco for a second round draft pick. He spent two unspectacular seasons with the 49ers before announcing his retirement following the 1979 season.

Simpson left the game second all-time to Jim Brown in rushing yards with 11,236. He had posted the most 200-yard games by any back ever with six.

He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1972, 1973 and 1975. He was named All Pro every year from 1972 through 1976, and he played in six Pro Bowls. In 1985, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Football Stats At a Glance

NFL DraftNo. 1 overall pick in 1969 by Buffalo Bills
Years Pro1969 to 1979
Position Running back
Number32
Nickname"The Juice"
TeamsBuffalo Bills (1969-1977), 49ers (1978-1979)
Alma MaterUniversity of Southern California (Trojans)
Hall of FameInducted Pro Hall of Fame in 1985
Best Season1973, Rushed for 2,003 yards
College HighlightsTwo-time All-America, AP and UPI College Athlete of the Year,
Heisman Trophy winner (1968), Inducted College Hall of Fame 
NFL Highlights

NFL MVP (1973), First rusher for 2,000 yards in a season (1973),
Unanimous All-Pro, Won 4 NFL rushing titles (1972-1976),
Named All-Pro 5 years (1972-1976), Named to 6 Pro Bowls,
Pro Bowl Player of the Game (1973), Inducted Bills Hall of Fame

Acting, Broadcasting and Endorsements

Even before the end of this football career, Simpson was laying the groundwork for a career in acting by making an appearance in the television mini-series "Roots." He also played roles in numerous movies, including "The Towering Inferno," the "Naked Gun" trilogy, and "The Cassandra Crossing."

He also landed many endorsement deals, the most memorable being a series of commercials promoting Hertz rental car company alongside golfing great Arnold Palmer. Simpson also worked as a commentator for "Monday Night Football" and was also a part of "The NFL on NBC." In 2006, Simpson starred in his own improv, hidden-camera prank TV show, "Juiced."

Legal Problems

Despite his incredible football career, he will most likely be remembered for his legal problems later in life.

Despite a non-guilty verdict for the stabbing murders of his former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, the highly-publicized trial captured the attention of the entire nation. Many believed that Simpson was responsible for the deaths, and a civil court agreed. Simpson was found liable in a wrongful death trial and was ordered to pay more than $33.5 million in damages.

Simpson had several other brushes with the law following his murder trial, the most serious of which landed him in prison. In September 2007, Simpson and a group of men forced their way into a room at the Palace Station hotel and casino in Las Vegas and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint. Simpson admitted to taking the items, which he said belonged to him, but denied that he or anyone else was in possession of a gun. Simpson was arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery with a deadly weapon. He was found guilty of all charges in October 2008 and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada. He becomes eligible for parole in October 2017.