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Williams: Shimonek goes deep, on and off field

Posted: July 8, 2017 - 8:27pm
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I can understand why Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury isn’t taking Nic Shimonek to next week’s Big 12 Conference football media days. The players who are going — Cameron Batson, Dylan Cantrell, Keke Coutee and Jah’Shawn Johnson — are deserving spokesmen for the Red Raiders with the career achievements to go along with it.

Shimonek has yet to start a college football game.

Nevertheless, it’s too bad media and fans won’t get to know the Red Raiders’ quarterback on July 17 at The Star in Frisco.

“He’s quite the interesting fellow,” Nic’s mother, Tresa Shimonek, said. “You look at him with those tattoos. You don’t expect what you get.”

His mother has a bias, of course, but she’s right: Nic Shimonek is quite the interesting fellow. Open, at ease and well spoken, he’s a fascinating interview subject. More often than not, he eschews cliche for what he really thinks. ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter wrote last winter about how Shimonek and his girlfriend helped pay for college by restoring furniture.

As I put on my Dave Campbell’s Texas Football hat this spring, Shimonek revealed how he was motivated by Jake Shimonek, four years older, much bigger at 6-foot-5 and 260 or so pounds and a former college athlete himself. The younger Nic chafed when people back home casually referred to him as “Jake’s little brother.”

“That’s where I came up with ‘Exceed All Expectations,’” Shimonek said, referring to one of his many tattoos. “I didn’t want to be his little brother. I wanted to be my own self.”

Not that he has anything against Jake. They’re tight, Nic said.

But his mom remembers Jake palming Nic’s head like a basketball when they’d play hoops in the driveway. Frustrated the heck out of Nic, but no one was going to feel sorry for him.

From competing against his big brother and his brother’s friends to playing pickup basketball against his dad and grown men to “playing up” an age group or two in youth sports, it seems Nic was always trying to measure up.

Hard to picture, now that he’s 6-foot-3, in the neighborhood of 225 to 230 pounds and radiating a mature self-assurance.

“Nic was always the littler one,” Tresa said, “and then Nic didn’t really grow until he got out of school. His older brother is much bigger than he is, so he’s had to fight for everything he’s got, which I think is part of where his personality comes from.”

In the last few years, the personality’s gone full bloom. Shimonek’s well-documented collection of tattoos is just part of his individualism. By all accounts, he’s a leader on the field, the guy who sets trends and styles off it.

“I’ve always kind of lived outside of the norm,” Shimonek said. “I take some heat for it at times, but it’s just who I am. It’s my personality.”

Cantrell, a fellow senior and high on the list of team leaders himself, had some insight into Shimonek from way back. They played together in the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star Game.

“Then when he came in (to Tech), right when he got here,” Cantrell said, “he was one of the hardest workers right off the bat. Always getting extra work in the weight room. Always wanting to throw extra, so it didn’t take long at all. Right off the bat, everybody knew how determined and hard-working he was, so we have all the faith and confidence in him.”

Since leaving behind his scholarship at Iowa to walk on at Tech, Shimonek’s proven himself to coaches, who made him one of the team’s eight captains for winter conditioning. Strength and conditioning coach Rusty Whitt said Shimonek gave Patrick Mahomes a good push last year. He’s won over Kingsbury, who compares Shimonek to B.J. Symons in persona and style of play.

“Last year is when I really saw the light turn on,” Kingsbury said, “when he started getting reps with the ones because of Pat’s injuries. He was moving the football consistently when we put him in there, handled himself like a starter all last year. That’s when I knew we had something.”

Having waited so long for this opportunity, Shimonek doesn’t figure to give it back. None of the other quarterbacks distinguished themselves in the spring.

Redshirt freshman Jett Duffey’s long university-issued suspension doesn’t end until Aug. 23, meaning he’s likely to miss most of preseason practice, almost until game-week preparation begins for the Sept. 2 season opener. By then, he won’t have practiced in a Tech team setting for about a year. That’s a ton of ground to make up.

Shimonek keeps knocking himself out just the same. The Mildred Eagles T-shirt that he wears under his Tech uniform reminds him where he’s been. He has lofty ambition for where he’s going. Shimonek openly aspires, come next spring, to be in the same position as Mahomes and former North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, a one-year starter who went high in the NFL draft.

Go ahead, tell him that’s nuts.

Being told he’s not enough is all Shimonek’s ever known.

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