Former Towson running back Shane Simpson, who spent the 2020 season at Virginia because the CAA canceled its football season, is confident the resume he built throughout his college career will earn him a look at the next level but understands the next few months are crucial to how teams will view him leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Simpson played at Towson from 2015-2019, though injuries cut his seasons short in 2015, 2017 and 2019; ACL and MCL tears cost him much of his final season with the Tigers. He made the most of it, though, accumulating 5,088 career all-purpose yards at Towson — 1,925 of which came on the ground. He also excelled as a receiver and in the return game. He earned scores of honors at Towson, culminating with a spot on the Walter Payton Award watch list ahead of the 2019 season.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Simpson played in all 10 of the Cavaliers’ games in 2020, posting 278 yards and two touchdowns on 54 carries and catching 13 passes for 133 yards and a score. Simpson took part in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas, in mid-January.
“I think I have a really good resume, but these next few months are definitely crucial. Teams are aware of my injury history with my knee,” Simpson said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 22. “That’s why it was so important for me to play this year, to erase the red flags of, ‘Is he healthy? Is he back?’ For me, just coming back from the CGS and performing really well in front of the scouts and getting to interview with a lot of teams, [it] was definitely great for me to get out there and show them that I can still move, that I’m fast [and] quick. But now with pro day coming up, it’s a big key indicator because everybody wants to see how fast I am.”
With the East-West Shrine Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl canceled this year, the CGS became a key event for players who weren’t invited to the Senior Bowl. Other local players who attended included Jake Funk and Shaq Smith, both of whom played at Maryland. Thirty of 32 NFL teams (and CFL teams) had scouts at the CGS, according to Simpson, who added that a total of 120 scouts were present. Simpson and the rest of the players had a chance to interview with teams and work out for them.
Because of the ongoing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL Scouting Combine has been canceled. There won’t be any private workouts leading up to the draft, either. After the Senior Bowl, all workouts in front of team personnel will be held at pro days on college campuses. Pro days are usually held throughout March and early April.
Simpson is currently focusing on the 40-yard dash in his preparations for Virginia’s pro day. He’d be happy running in the 4.4 range but thinks he can get into the 4.3s.
“Some teams feel I’m quicker than fast. … I can’t wait to show them how fast I really am because I have a track background,” Simpson said. “Yeah, I might be on the shorter end, but I have long strides so I just look like I’m gliding at times. I really can’t wait to show them what I can do in that 40.”
There are currently two Towson football alums in the NFL — Jordan Dangerfield (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Tye Smith (Tennessee Titans). Both are on active rosters mostly because of their ability to play special teams. If Simpson is to crack an NFL roster, it’ll most likely have to be through special teams as well.
Simpson told scouts at the CGS that he wants to return kicks and punts. He was named the 2018 CAA Special Teams Player of the Year after he posted 887 kick return yards and 104 punt return yards during his last full season with the Tigers. He also returned a kick for a touchdown.
“Playing special teams is definitely key,” Simpson said. “Even if I was a first- or second-round pick, I want to be on special teams because that’s part of my identity and that just shows how versatile I am. And I can market myself in that facet due to the fact that I can play running back, I can catch out of the backfield. … Kick return, punt return is a special ability that not everybody can do.”
Simpson is willing to travel whatever route necessary in order to play in the NFL. He mentioned former NFL running back Fred Jackson, who played nine years in the league after playing arena ball in 2004 and 2005. Once he makes it to the NFL, Simpson says he’ll proudly represent Towson.
“Towson gave me the opportunity to show the world my talent, and I will forever be grateful for that. I will always be a Towson Tiger even though I am a Virginia Cavalier to the end as well,” Simpson said. “But that’s where I started my career, that’s where I got my degree at, that’s where I have a lot of my records, and my awards are at Towson. I can never thank them enough for allowing me to show what I can do at that stage. I’ll always keep Towson on the map. I’ll definitely give shoutouts to Towson when I’m in the league as well.”
For more from Simpson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of UVA Media Relations