Towson senior RB Simpson announces he is transferring to Virginia

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: caasports.com

Shane Simpson has the word “patience” tattooed on the right side of his right hand, a constant reminder of what the All-American running back has endured during his five years of football at Towson University.

A severe knee injury during the third game of his 2019 campaign ended his season and yet again demanded patience for his return to the game he loved. What he didn’t count on was the pandemic causing the Colonial Athletic Association to suspend football for 2020.

Simpson didn’t require patience for his next move. He quickly entered the NCAA transfer portal last Thursday and on Sunday evening announced he would finish his sixth year at Virginia for Bronco Mendenhall. Simpson chose the Cavaliers over Texas.

Virginia is getting a 2018 Consensus All-American running back, who has posted 4,751 career total yards at Towson. He is considered one of the top running backs in FCS football, where he ranked No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards (171.5 yards per game).

Simpson, a native of Pennsylvania, recorded more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018, including 711 yards rushing, 356 yards receiving, 887 yards in kickoff returns, and another 104 yards in punt returns.

In 2019, the versatile back was averaging 7.4 yards per carry and had scored three touchdowns when he suffered a knee injury, a torn ACL and MCL.

When he decided to transfer, Simpson was adamant about what kind of program he was aiming to join for his final season.

“I’m looking for a school to continue to use me in all facets: running back, play in the slot, catch out of the backfield and return specialist,” he said. “I want to go to a team that not only wants me but needs me. I want to help in any way possible to help the team win.”

He was also courted by Florida State, Penn State, Pitt, Northwestern, Duke and Wake Forest before choosing the Cavaliers over the Longhorns, a recruiting coup for Mendenhall and his staff.

At Virginia, Simpson could play a role much like the school’s all-time receptions leader Olamide Zaccheaus played two years ago, in addition to giving UVA another option in the return game.

Photo: towsontigers.com

“Shane is so versatile and he’s so many things,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose told the Baltimore Sun. “We trained him as a wide receiver before he played running back, so his ability to do so many things for us at our level is massive and it’s going to take a multitude of people to fill all of those holes.”

Ambrose said he totally understood Simpson’s decision to move on after the CAA canceled the fall season.

“Where there has been little information about football this summer, this fall and next spring, it makes sense for players like Shane to seek opportunities where they can play football somewhere else,” the Tigers coach said. “I don’t fault him for making a decision that is about trying to prepare for the NFL and securing his future.”

The versatile back has become accustomed to overcoming injuries that also shortened his seasons in 2015 and 2017. Thus, the “patience” tattoo’s importance.

“I’m 100 percent,” Simpson said. “I’m bigger and stronger than I was last year. Overall, I feel great.”

At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Simpson said he has put on 10 pounds of muscle while rehabbing from his ‘19 knee injury. During that period, he lifted four days a week, participated in yoga and received laser treatments.

“It wasn’t going to happen overnight and it wasn’t going to be quick,” Simpson said. “You had to be real diligent with your work and stay true to yourself and remain positive. Having a positive outlook is key with any injury, especially with a knee injury. I think it’s 90 percent mental.”

He would have preferred finishing his career at Towson, but after the CAA made its decision, Simpson had to make one of his own. He has his sights set on playing in the NFL.

“I know I have the film for it and this year was the icing on the cake to show every part of my game,” he 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.”

Simpson adds much-needed depth to Virginia’s backfield as a rusher and receiver. The Cavaliers return starting tailback Wayne Taulapapa and little-used Mike Hollins to the backfield, and possibly Indiana transfer Ronnie Walker Jr., who is awaiting a ruling on his eligibility for this season.

UVA lost running backs PK Kier and Lamont Atkins, who both left the program earlier this season. Seneca Milledge, also a running back, showed promise as a kick-return specialist, but also left the program.

Comments

  1. W Craig Fowler MD says:

    Jerry, thank you for your excellent reporting. You’ve done so well for so long!
    I really enjoyed your articles and podcasts. Stay strong and keep on keeping on. We appreciate your great writing and dedication to UVA exposition!

    • Jerry Ratcliffe says:

      Craig, thank you so much for your readership and support. Means a lot to me. I’ll admit that like many others, we are struggling during this pandemic shutdown. Most of our sponsors are on pause right now, which means we’re trying to hang in there during these tough times. Readership is very important to us because that’s how we prove to sponsors and potential sponsors that we’re worthy of them spending money with us. Really appreciate you!

  2. Great get. Impressive film. Not crazy about his choice of music.

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