Meet Simon Gupton (NC State 1976-79)


Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet one of NC State’s most formidable defensive lineman from the 1970’s:   Simon Gupton

Gupton, a  6’1″ 252 pound defensive tackle from Hampton, Virginia was a staple on Bo Rein’s defensive unit and NC State’s last football championship team.  That was 36 years ago when the Atlantic Coast Conference had just eight teams and Danny Ford’s Clemson Tigers was the team to beat.  The Pack finished 7-4 that year (1979) winning the ACC.

Having joined the Wolfpack on the heels of outgoing Wolfpack coach Lou Holtz’s 4 very successful seasons, optimism was high that Rein, a disciple of Holtz, would continue the momentum and win big.

Gupton said of his 1976 incoming freshman class, “We changed their whole way of thinking.” He said previous NC State squads were probably bigger and stronger, but said his class which featured Billy Ray Vickers, Jim Ritcher, Scott Smith, Woodrow Wilson, Chris Dietrich, Marion Gale and Bubba Green to name a few, “was much quicker.”

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He played nose guard his freshman year, a position he had never played before.   Gupton said his big break came after he missed a varsity game due injury and the opportunity arose to make up the game by playing in a JV game against UNC.   To his delight, Gupton said he jumped at the opportunity to play defensive tackle…his natural position.  In the JV game, Gupton said he had about 5 or 6 sacks and another 4 or 5 negative yardage plays. The coaches were ecstatic.

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Gupton confided, “I think if I’d have stayed at noseguard, I might not have stayed at NC State that long.”   Instead, he got a starting slot at defensive tackle the next season and No. 90 went on to have an outstanding All-ACC collegiate career.

From the team perspective, Gupton said the Wolfpack’s transition to a very good team began his sophomore season.  The first year was a drag on him and fellow teammates as they and their rookie head coach stumbled to a 3-7-1 record.  Though Rein and his staff were very talented, their coaching style left a lot to be desired.  Gupton said they practiced “hard” 6 days a week; so much so he and teammates actually looked forward to game day so that they could get a break.   Gupton recalled, “We beat each other up so bad that we can’t even play the game.”  To Rein’s credit, this philosophy changed by year two and the team steadily improved as they took out their aggression on opponents.

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Overall, Gupton had nothing but respect for coach Rein, but was less complimentary when asked about succeeding Wolfpack coaching staffs until one of Rein’s former assistants, Chuck Amato returned to the university in  2000.  Amato was a breath of fresh air.  He brought back the swagger and embraced the former players of Gupton’s era.

Today, Simon Gupton lives in the Hampton, Virginia area.  He no longer coaches high school football the way he used to, but he still gives back to promising youth by assisting in football camps when he finds the time.  Nearing retirement, Gupton remains close to former teammates.  He also continues to follow Wolfpack Football, but like many former players, wishes the University would utilize the assets and wisdom that football alum can offer.

Next: NC State Alum Football Clinic