When the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) announced July 17 that football would be suspended for the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, running back Shane Simpson knew he had likely played his last game for the Tigers.
Simpson was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in January after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Hearing the news that Towson won’t be playing football this fall was devastating.
“It really took a lot out of me. I was really training my body as well as eating anywhere I could to get back better than I was before, and I felt like after all the hard work I’m finally back,” Simpson said on Glenn Clark Radio July 20. “It hit me more so not being able to lead my team or play with my brothers more than anything.”
Simpson is considered one of the top running backs at the FCS level, and even if the football season were moved to the spring, he would not be able to participate as he prepares for 2021 NFL Draft. In 2018, Simpson was named an All-CAA selection at three different positions. He was a second-team kick returner, and his 887 kick return yards were second in the FCS. He was named a first-team All-American and led Towson to its first playoff appearance in five seasons.
The Tigers lost to Duquesne, 31-10, in the 2018 FCS playoffs despite getting out to a 10-0 lead. And while the loss stuck with the players entering the 2019 season, Simpson said it proved Towson was still a top program after two straight losing seasons.
“Even though we came up short in the [playoffs], which pissed me off because it was literally in our hands, I take big blame for that because I was the captain and the leader,” Simpson said. “As a whole we were able to show that Towson was back.”
Losing was something Simpson wasn’t used to when he arrived on campus. He graduated from Easton Area High in Pennsylvania, which is one of the best teams in the country. They have 854 since beginning play in 1895, eighth-most in America. Simpson said that losing a few games his freshman year helped motivate him to make sure that didn’t happen often.
“Coming here my freshman year in 2015 we were 7-4, I hadn’t lost four games probably in my high school career, that was something fairly new to me. Even though we still had a winning record, I just didn’t like the way it felt.”
Last season, Simpson was poised to lead the Tigers back to the FCS playoffs before suffering a season-ending knee injury in September. This was not the first time Simpson had to overcome an injury, as both his 2015 and 2017 were cut short. Despite these setbacks, he believes he’s proven his worth and has earned an opportunity in the NFL.
“Overall, I feel great and I know I have the film for it and this year was the icing on the cake to show every part of my game,” Simpson said. “Showing people how I returned after adversity, I’ve done that in my college career twice. … I know they will be very pleased in what they see.”
Towson has sent a few running backs to the NFL in recent years, including Darius Victor and Terrance West, but the Tigers have not had a player drafted since Tye Smith in 2015. Simpson is looking to change that. Simpson is currently on the Senior Bowl watch list, and if chosen, he would compete against players from all levels of college football in front of scouts and coaches from all 32 NFL teams.
NFL scouts have been keeping an eye on Towson lately. After this year’s draft, wide receiver Shane Leatherbury signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals. Last year, offensive lineman Matt Kauffman received a workout with the New Orleans Saints but was not signed.
Simpson views the suspended season as another example of adversity he’s faced, and he believes with all he’s been through he can handle the adjustment to the NFL.
“I’ve been through adversity all my life — deaths, family problems, injuries, whatever the case may be,” Simpson said. “From all the things I’ve been through, I know I can handle anything coming my way. This is another obstacle, and I’m ready to handle it too.”
Update: Simpson announced Aug. 1 that he is transferring to Virginia for his final season of eligibility.
For more from Simpson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: ENP Photography