Taking the lead from his older siblings, recent Peninsula graduate and two-sport athlete Troy Simpkins could see putting in the extra work almost always paid off.

"One of the biggest things I was able to watch as I was growing up was the amount of work they put in," said Simpkins, who is the youngest of four. "It was eye opening the kind of extra work, aside from just practice, my siblings put in to get better."

That dedication was something his basketball coach, Ryan Quinlan, saw stand out.

"Troy was one of the hardest working players I've ever had, and he leads by example," Quinlan said. "If guys are fooling around, and he sees it, they're going to get back into the drill. He is an extension of a coach. I didn't have to do all the disciplinary stuff, because I knew Troy could handle it."

That attitude and work ethic made it easy for Quinlan to nominate Simpkins for Peninsula's annual Captain of the Year award as a part of its Athlete of the Year award banquet.

Simpkins was selected as one of Peninsula's Captain of the Year awardees during the Zoom ceremony held on June 3.

"It's very humbling, and it's a big award to get," Simpkins said of the selection. "It's one of those things that despite athletic capabilities, you're one of the bigger figures on campus. It's an honor."

It wasn't just Simpkins dedication to the program that pushed Quinlan to nominate him, it was his selflessness that made Simpkins an easy nod.

"The last thing on his mind was filling up the stat sheet," Quinlan said. "Even though our other three starters (seniors JD Plough, Caleb Hall, Luke Frasso) had great seasons stat-wise, Troy was the leader. Everything was about the team, his friends and winning. He would do anything for the program to win."

Simpkins was a big key to the Panthers success over the last two years. The Panthers won 38 games during his junior and senior years, advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division 2A quarterfinals during his senior year, before falling to top-seeded Ribet Academy.

It was the chemistry the team had Simpkins knew they had to take advantage of.

"A lot of the guys on the team were my closest friends, and that helped a lot coming into the season. Most of us played the last seven years together, and seemed as if it were now or never," Simpkins said. "I felt a lot of schools didn't have the type of chemistry we had."

During their freshman year, Simpkins, Frasso, Hall and Plough were called up to the varsity level to practice with the team. It was there Simpkins knew it was time to dedicate himself in the weight room.

"I was maybe 125 or 130 pounds, and I was getting pushed around a lot," Simpkins said. "I wasn't able to stay in the paint, and I knew I had to work out and put muscle on. I learned right there that everything we do is for a reason, whether it's in the weight room or on the court."

Simpkins also suited up for the Peninsula lacrosse team, and noted that while the two sports are similar in terms of constant movement, it took him two weeks to get into lacrosse shape after basketball season.

"Basketball has a lot of short sprints, and lacrosse, it's full-field sprinting the entire time," Simpkins said. "It's a lot of hand-eye coordination, and getting your body used to a different coordination can be a little daunting. Normally, heading into a season, it had been some time since I'd picked up a lacrosse stick, so it normally took a week or two to get back into it."

The decision he made before high school began regarding his future was one that kept him motivated over the last four years.

"I already had a good work ethic coming into my freshman year, but the goal of attending USC was always on my mind," Simpkins said. "I knew if I slacked off, or had even one slip up, my goal would not be reachable."

Simpkins graduated with a weighted 4.3 GPA, and will follow in the footsteps of his parents and three older siblings in attending USC. His grandfather, Arthur C. Bartner, has been the Director of the Spirit of Troy, USC's Marching Band, since 1970.

His goal at USC is to major in business, with an emphasis on sales and marketing.

Being 25 miles away from the Rolling Hills Estates campus while at USC, Simpkins said he'd take any opportunity he can to give back to the program that helped shape him.

"With everything coach Quinlan helped me do, including forming the person I am today, I'd love to speak to the younger guys," Simpkins said. "Giving them any words of advice would be really important to me."

Aside from being what Quinlan called "the epitome of a student-athlete," Simpkins was also a member of Peninsula's Associated Student Body (ASB) all four years, and was asked to be a leader of the school's student cheering section, the Zoo, his senior year. Simpkins led the section during football games.

"That's something I'll never forget. To stand up and lead a ground of 300 to 400 students is very special," Simpkins said. "A lot of people don't get that opportunity, and I saw first-hand how much impact it can have on a player. To have an entire student body have your back no matter what happens is something I'll never forget."

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