Orenthal James Simpson was born in San Francisco, California on 9 July 1947 to Eunice and Jimmy Lee Simpson, who separated when he was five. As a child, he contracted rickets and wore braces on his legs until he was five. He developed into a promising American football player, playing running and defensive back in high school and college. He was named in the Junior College All-American team as a running back and earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California. There, he broke several records in scoring touchdowns and running yards, and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1969.
Simpson’s first three years with the Buffalo Bills were unremarkable but he is best remembered for his sensational 1973 season, when he became the first back to rush for over 2000 yards, while scoring 12 touchdowns. Simpson led the league in rushing in the years 1972, 1973, 1975 and 1976. He was named United Press International AFC Player of the Year in 1972, 1973 and 1975, and was 1973 NFL Offensive Player of the Year as well as 1973 Most Valuable Player. He was then traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1978 where he spent two seasons. In 1985, in his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After his retirement from football in 1979, he devoted his time to his budding acting career, most notably in ‘The Naked Gun’ comedic trilogy starring Leslie Nielsen. He also started his own film production company, Orenthal Productions, while being the face of the many products he endorsed, including Hertz rental cars and other food-related products.
In 1967, he married Marguerite L Whitley and the couple had three children; Arnelle (b. 1968), Jason (b. 1970) and Aaren (b. 1977). Aaren drowned in the family pool at the age of two in 1979, while that same year, Simpson and Marguerite divorced. In 1985, he married Nicole Brown and had two children; Sydney (b. 1985) and Justin (b. 1988). Simpson and Nicole divorced in 1992. Two years later, Simpson would be charged with the murder of Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. He would subsequently be acquitted, although he lost a civil suit brought by Fred Goldman, Ronald’s father, where Simpson was ordered to pay $33.5 million in damages.
In 2007, Simpson held up two memorabilia collectors at gunpoint in a hotel room. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2008 for kidnapping and armed robbery and only eligible for parole after nine years.