“He was like ‘congratulations, you made it to the 53-man roster,’” he said. “I started jumping up and down. I was so happy and I had to get myself back together and go inside. The whole day was just like ‘wow OK, and not only that I get to be second string.’”
Simpson, a former standout running back at Morgan State, called being signed to the active roster from the practice squad as one of the happiest days of his life, trailing only the birth of his 2-year-old daughter, Chassidy.
The 5-foot-9, 216-pounder went undrafted after he rushed for a school-record 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns before running the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds during a workout for the Miami Dolphins.
But shortly after the draft, he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. Simpson was given a chance to earn a roster spot, but failed to unseat starting running back Joseph Addai, veteran Dominic Rhodes or fifth-round draft pick Mike Hart and was signed to the five-man practice squad.
For the past six weeks, he mimicked opposing running backs such as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor during practice against the team’s starters.
But after Addai reaggravated a hamstring injury and Hart suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Colts’ 31-3 victory over the Ravens, Simpson became an integral part of the game plan for today’s game against the Packers (3-3).
“It’s a dream for that young man to come true and inspires his old teammates,” Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “We are proud of him and hopefully he will continue to make high climbs and this is just the beginning.”
For Simpson, it represents a whirlwind year in which he has gone from taking handoffs from Mario Melton to one of the all-time greats, Peyton Manning.
“He is a perfectionist and wants everything just right — I’m not as sharp as he is — he’s a walking computer,” Simpson said with a laugh. “He helps me a lot and he makes sure I know what I am doing. He doesn’t want me to get him killed by missing a block. He hasn’t been hurt and he doesn’t want to start now.”
But with his responsibility comes compensation. As a practice-team player, he was scheduled to receive about $5,200 a week during the 17-week season. But once he was promoted, he will earn about $17,350 — the NFL minimum for each week he remains on the active roster.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll live a lifestyle that will get him on MTV’s ‘Cribs.”
He shares an apartment in the city with rookie defensive end Curtis Johnson and claims he has spent very little of his salary — at least not yet.
The Colts have high expectations of Simpson, who noticed their were plays designed specifically for him in this week’s game plan.
“It’s really, really a shame. [Hart’s] a good player who brought a lot of energy,” Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said. “But we think Chad Simpson can do that, too.”
Dungy will find out, beginning this afternoon at 4:15 in front of a capacity crowd at Lambeau Field and a national television audience on CBS.
“I want to see about this ‘Lambeau Leap,” Simpson said. “I think if I score I am going to jump up in the stands and see the fans. If God blesses me with an opportunity to score, I am going to do it.”