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As a child, Simpson developed rickets and wore braces on his legs until the age of five, At Galileo High School (currently Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) in San Francisco, Simpson played for the school football team, the Galileo Lions.

They took Simpson, but he demanded what was then the largest contract in professional sports history: $650,000 over five years.

This led to a standoff with Bills' owner Ralph Wilson, as Simpson threatened to become an actor and skip professional football. Bills coach John Rauch, not wanting to build an offense around one running back, assigned Simpson to do blocking and receiving duties at the expense of running the ball.

Despite Simpson's performance, the Bills would lose the game 27–14.

Simpson gained 11,236 rushing yards, placing him 2nd on the NFL's all-time rushing list when he retired; he now stands at 21st.

After a childhood friend's injury in the Vietnam War influenced Simpson to stay out of the military, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco in 1965.

As a junior in 1967, Simpson was a close runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting to quarterback Gary Beban of UCLA.

In that year's Victory Bell rivalry game between the teams, USC was down by six points in the fourth quarter with under eleven minutes remaining.

On their own 36, USC backup quarterback Toby Page called an audible on third and seven.

In 1971, Rauch resigned as head coach and the Bills brought in Harvey Johnson.

In 1972, Simpson rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, gaining a league-leading total of 1,251 yards.

He is the only player to ever rush for over 2,000 yards in the 14-game regular season NFL format.

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