By: Jordan Kendall, Sports Editor
File Photo by: Joe Noyes/The Towerlight
Redshirt senior running back Shane Simpson announced on Twitter he has been granted a sixth year of eligibility. Simpson suffered a knee injury on Sept. 14 at Maine. In 2018, he finished second in the FCS averaging 171.5 scrimmage yards.
This was exciting news for the program, especially for head coach Rob Ambrose.
“I was thrilled,” said head coach Rob Ambrose. “It wasn’t a surprise, the odds were in our favor but I was certainly thrilled.”
Simpson was named an All-CAA selection at three different positions. He was a first-team running back, second-team kick returner, and third-team punt returner. His 887 kick return yards were also second in the FCS highlighted by his 96-yard return on the opening kickoff vs Stony Brook.
“As a kid from Easton, PA., the goal has always been to play division one football, leave a lasting legacy at the university, and chase my dream to play in the NFL,” Simpson said on Twitter. “I thank God for getting me this far and the road hasn’t always been easy with a bunch of adversity along the way.
According to The New York Times, “The N.C.A.A. allows Division I athletes to have five calendar years to play four seasons of competition, giving them a cushion in case they sustain an injury to have a redshirt year. The organization is strict about granting sixth years and does so only when colleges can prove players lost two seasons of participation because of reasons beyond their control, like injury or illness. The N.C.A.A. said it could not provide a tally for the total number of athletes who have received a sixth year.”
The process was completed through Towson’s athletic department and was led by Terry Porter, the Associate Athletic Director of Compliance.
“We had to send a hardship waiver and sent that to the CAA and they approved it,” Porter said. “It can take two weeks to a month, ours took about a month.”
Simpson was injured in the fourth game of the 2015 season at Elon. Because he missed the remainder of that season as well as the final nine games of the 2019 season, he will return for Towson in 2020.
“I’ve been waiting for this call for months and finally heard the news,” Simpson said. “With that being said, I got approved for my sixth year and will not declare for the 2020 draft.”
This is a unique situation at Towson, as not many student athletes are able to get a sixth year.
“We have around 500 student athletes and around three are on their sixth year so not that often,” Porter said.
If Simpson makes an NFL roster, he will join former Tiger running back Terrance West as the only Towson running backs to do so since 2000. Former Tigers running back Darius Victor is currently on the New York Guardians of the XFL, however, did not make an active NFL roster after joining the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.
“The NFL has always been a dream of mine and it’s not going anywhere,” Simpson said. “I want to finish what I’ve started. My dream is just delayed not denied. See you in 2020 Tiger nation.”
Simpson will return to a backfield filled with potential. In his absence, redshirt sophomore running back Adrian Feliz-Platt saw an increased role. He missed the 2018 season due to injury, but was a key compliment to senior running back Yeedee Thaenrat. Last season Feliz-Platt rushed for 480 yards including 101 vs Bucknell. In the last four games of 2019, he rushed for at least 50 yards in each game.
Another piece in the backfield will be senior running back Kobe Young. He redshirted last season after four games, but in 2018 rushed for 455 yards and three touchdowns behind Simpson on the depth chart. Simpson should still be the top back, but head coach Rob Ambrose will have plenty of options in the backfield.
Simpson’s return is great news for upcoming redshirt senior quarterback Ryan Stover. The likely starting quarterback will have one of the top running backs in the country beside him. Stover has not seen significant playing time since 2017, and having Simpson should take some pressure off him.
“We found a way to put up points without [Simpson] last year, but he’s a guy who was responsible for a good portion of our touchdowns [in 2018] so there’s a lot of points he brings to the table.” Ambrose said.