Simeon Blair started leaving his mark on Pine Bluff at a young age, long before playing with Arkansas football.
In youth football as a Pine Bluff Raven, Blair showed extraordinary leadership skills and keen insight into the sport.
“He may have been the greatest Raven we ever had,” Omar Allen, a long-time youth coach and former Pine Bluff High Zebra, said.
Allen coached Blair, who first played baseball before switching to football, as a kid and saw in him a player who could one day become an NFL player.
“The reason I say that is his leadership ability is outstanding,” Allen said. “He has great athletic ability, but the leadership was the part that got me the most.”
Blair, who was a Pine Bluff Zebra quarterback and defensive back, helped his high school team make it to the second round of the playoffs in 2016.
Allen said Blair’s father, who played high school, college and pro football, influenced his son to play the sport. That influence continues, Allen said.
Last December, Blair, a starting defensive back and captain for Arkansas football, entered the transfer portal. The Memphis Tigers grabbed the senior the second week of January. That doesn’t surprise Allen. Memphis wants a conference championship in a reconfigured AAC.
“He is considered one of the best recruits because of his intelligence of the game,” Allen said. “When you get the intellectual part of the game and you have the leadership and the athletic sides, all of that combined with greatness, and his personality, you have got a great player. Sometimes it takes you to get away from somewhere else to be more successful.”
The Blair Stats with Arkansas Football
As a fifth-year senior in 2022, Simeon Blair was on the field for more snaps than any other Arkansas defender. On the surface, his stats are strong: 46 games, 22 starts, 135 tackles and 11 pass breakups.
He walked-on to play for the Hogs in 2018 and redshirted. He never played a game that first season. Head coach Sam Pittman saw potential in Blair, though, and eventually awarded him a scholarship.
In 2021, he played 604 total defensive snaps. In his final season with the Hogs, Blair was a full-time starter with team-high 962 defensive snaps, and he was on the field for more than 96% of the plays last season. Blair’s official stats show 73 tackles and five pass backups.
But Blair struggled, too. A closer examination of his stats show a rough road during his last season as a Razorback.
He did make a critical tackle for loss in the LSU game last season, but also gave up a lot, too. His position group surrendered the most yards per game in Razorback history and ranked last in the FBS in pass defense.
Blair allowed, according to Pro Football Focus, seven touchdown passes in coverage and posted a 51.2 overall grade, which ranked 368th out of 379 players with at least 700 defensive snaps in this FBS season. No SEC player allowed more touchdowns than Blair.
If the word out of the Memphis football camp is any indication, the change in location has helped reset Blair’s failings in Fayetteville. To the point where Memphis football coaches on both sides of the ball are talking him up as potentially the team’s best player. He even represented his new team at the American Athletic Conference’s 2023 media days in Arlington, Texas in late July.
In a recent Memphis Commercial Appeal article about Blair, Matt Barnes, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, said, “Being really good at playing the game is a combination of being smart and tough. And he’s off the charts with those things. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a great tackler. Not a good tackler. A great tackler.”
New Beginnings with Memphis Football
Despite Simeon Blair’s last season with Arkansas football, he arrived in Memphis in the spotlight.
Blair gave an interview during spring practice with the Bluff City Media podcast in Memphis where he discussed growing up playing football and his time as a Razorback captain meant “the world to him.”
He also explained the reasoning for his transfer.
“I felt like it was just that time for me to have a change of scenery and also I felt like play in a different style of defense a style I feel like more fits what I can do, really a style I can really benefit a team by me being in a position that I can make more plays,” Blair said.
Blair said he felt as if Memphis defense’ is “much more multiple” than the one he played in 2022 under Barry Odom, the former Arkansas defensive coordinator.
“You can’t really tell what our defense is going to do each and every single play,” Blair said. “It gives a great disguise and it’s really hard for a young quarterback to be able to decipher one look before the play and then a different look after the play.”
Blair also said that Memphis felt like home and that the coaches let him know that politics were not involved in the game.
“The best player is going to play the game, and once I saw the defense that Coach Barnes actually runs, I absolutely fell in love with it,” Blair said.
As a former captain, Blair possesses natural leadership and a certain loud assertiveness. He said he was aware of this coming into the Memphis football camp.
“The approach for me (as a leader) has been really when I first got there, I wanted to show everybody I was a hard worker – that has always been me, but I didn’t want to come in and assert myself too fast,” Blair said. “I wanted to show everybody that I work hard and show them by my actions so that way when I do talk, it can be respected. Everybody don’t want to listen to a person who comes in and asserts themselves and talks and talks but don’t show the actions behind it.”
Blair said he wanted people to show he was “an action guy.”
Already Leading Memphis Football
He said younger players come to him and ask him questions based on his experience in Fayetteville.
“You can either get that love and relax or you can get that love and take it to the next level where I’m bringing my teammates with me,” Blair said.
While transitions are never easy, Blair said having a coaching change during his time with the Razorbacks gave him the ability to ease into a new playing environment.
“I feel like sometimes you need to open your mind up to new or different things,” Blair said. “Coach Barnes has changed the technique of my (man coverage), which I feel like has helped me immensely.”
So has the wealth of experience he brings to the table. “A lot of offenses do the same things, it’s just tendencies,” he said at the AAC media days. “Learning experiences from there was what really taught me a lot in how to overcome adversity because I walked on there and that really taught me how to be a strong individual, be a strong player, and have a strong mindset.”
Knowing Blair since childhood, Allen says that the new Tiger is a “quiet soul” who says “yes sir” and “no sir.” But when it comes to his attitude on the field, he’s a beast.
“He has his own cockiness because of what he does,” Allen said. “He is always going to be a Razorback and be an alumni. Simeon wanted to continue his football and Memphis will give him another year. I know he has a desire to play in the NFL. Just watch, the thing that has always set him apart is his leadership ability. I guarantee we will see the same thing in Memphis. He has that Pine Bluff Zebra pride.”
More coverage of Simeon Blair and other Arkansas football transfers from BoAS…