Running back Shane Simpson’s decision to transfer from the Towson football program was spurred by the Colonial Athletic Association’s announcement two weeks ago to suspend football in the fall.

When the conference announced July 17 that it was postponing football, it left open the possibility that the sport could resume in the spring. The league also gave member schools the freedom to pursue their own schedules, but the Tigers opted against that route.

Faced with the prospect of waiting until the spring or even fall 2021, Simpson chose to submit his name to the NCAA transfer portal, making it public via Twitter Thursday afternoon.

“It all came down to once our season got canceled,” said the running back, who is about to enter his sixth year of eligibility. “I didn’t want to leave because I was going to be a three-time captain, and being a captain means a lot to me. I wanted to finish the season with my brothers for the last time. But obviously due to the virus, that wasn’t going to happen. So it was either start training for the NFL or get some more film. So now that I’m healthy and I’m back, I chose to enter the portal.”

Simpson’s announcement drew plenty of reaction from current and former teammates.

Towson coach Rob Ambrose said the 23-year-old Simpson made a logical choice.

“When 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,” he said. “I don’t fault him for making a decision that is about trying to prepare for the NFL and securing his future.”

Simpson said he will transfer to an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school because many of those programs plan to play this fall even if their schedules are abbreviated. He said he will mull offers with his family before making a decision in the next week or two.

Simpson has compiled 4,751 career all-purpose yards in his career, highlighting his tenure by being named the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2019. That season, he ranked second at the Football Championship Subdivision level in all-purpose yards per game (171.5) and collected 887 return yards, 711 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns, including six rushing, five receiving and one via kickoff return.

Simpson promised to be just as versatile for his next school.

“I’ll play wherever they want me,” he said. “I can play running back, and I can catch out of the backfield. I can play in the slot. I can line up outside. I can play punt return and kick return. And they’re getting a leader. I’m not young. This is my sixth year. I know the ropes around college football.”

With Simpson transferring and Yeedee Thaenrat (746 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground) exhausting his eligibility, the Tigers will turn to redshirt juniors Adrian Feliz-Platt (480 yards and one touchdown in 2019) and Kobe Young (29 yards and one touchdown before suffering a season-ending foot injury) to spark the offense. While citing their potential, Ambrose acknowledged that it would be difficult to expect Feliz-Platt and Young to make up for Simpson’s production.

“Shane is so versatile, and he’s so many things,” Ambrose said. “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.”

Simpson is coming off a torn ACL and MCL that wiped out his season as a fifth-year senior after only three games in 2019. Since March, he has been strengthening his knee, lifting four days per week, and participating in yoga sessions and laser treatments to hone his body.

“I’m 110 percent,” he said, noting that he has added about 10 pounds of muscle to his listed 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame. “I’m bigger and stronger than I was last year. Overall, I feel great.”

Simpson said he had the word “patience” tattooed on the right side of his right hand to remind him of the long recovery process.

“It wasn’t going to happen overnight, and it wasn’t going to be quick,” he 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.”

Ambrose said he would not expect Simpson to need much time to acclimate himself to a new program. He just wished that Simpson could have ended his career at Towson.

“Like the guys we’ve had in the last 10 years, I think he wanted to be one of those guys from here that went on to the NFL,” Ambrose said. “I think he wanted to be part of that crew that came from here. But if circumstances aren’t going to allow that, then he’s got to do what he’s got to do, and I support him 100 percent.”

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