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Tech ex Sheffield going strong in Arena League

Posted: January 26, 2012 - 12:18am  |  Updated: January 26, 2012 - 1:23am
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Growing up in Austin, Steven Sheffield had a close look when Chris Simms and Major Applewhite battled over the starting quarterback job from 1999 through 2001 at the University of Texas.

That’s the analogy Sheffield summons a decade later when he describes the competition he had with Taylor Potts at Texas Tech. Both were multi-year battles that elicited strong fan reactions.

“I thought it was real interesting growing up seeing the Major Applewhite/Chris Simms quarterback debate, and we kind of had the same thing in Lubbock,” Sheffield said this week. “You had the big guy like Taylor and the underdog like Major Applewhite; I was kind of like that.

“While I was in my middle school and high school days, my friends and family were always wanting them to put Major Applewhite in. Every time they put him in, he made amazing plays and he sparked the offense. It was kind of ironic. Here I am a few years later, living in kind of the same shoes as him.”

A little more than a year removed from his senior seaon at Tech, Sheffield is preparing for his second year in the Arena Football League. In 2011, after being signed during the season, he got into three games with the Spokane Shock.

This year, being in the same league, but given the chance to play close to home, he recently signed with the San Antonio Talons.

Sheffield went to San Antonio clearly understanding he’ll be the backup — the Talons also signed defending Arena Bowl champion quarterback Aaron Garcia, who holds the AFL records for career passing yards (50,019), career touchdown passes (1,078) and total touchdowns (1,124).

His last two years at Tech, Sheffield’s situation wasn’t so clear cut. He and Potts both had their moments in 2009 and 2010, and Sheffield admits to being frustrated at getting only one start to Potts’ 12 when they were seniors.

“It kind of blew my mind how (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown thought the only way to win was to start one quarterback,” Sheffield said. “You have two seniors that have been there for five years. Why can’t they both play?

“Even though it’s a close race, you tell the media it’s a close race and everyone knows it’s a close race, you have one guy play 90 percent of the snaps and one guy sit back and his senior season goes to waste.

“You would think, ‘Hey, I have two good quarterbacks; let’s try to use both of them. There’s things Potts is better at than Sticks (Sheffield). There’s things Sticks is better at than Potts.’ They’re on the same team. Why not use them both?”

Potts threw 35 TD passes to 10 interceptions in 2010. The former walk-on Sheffield captured fans’ fancy the year before when he led Tech to Big 12 wins over Nebraska and Kansas State — both while Potts was sidelined with a concussion — and a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.

Sheffield said he had no grudge against Potts. Their relationship, while “never buddy-buddy,” Sheffield said, was cordial.

“We were never hanging out after practice,” he said, “but at the same time we were never giving each other the eye or not saying hi to each other.”

Whichever one happened to be the backup would try to pass along helpful information to the other during games, Sheffield said. After all, they had the common goal of winning.

“We’re a lot different people, first off,” Sheffield said. “He’s a different guy than I am. He’s a really good guy. I know he’s got a good heart. I think we did a good job battling it out as many times as we had to. He got injured a few times. I got injured a few times. We still stuck it out and ended the season (8-5 in 2010). It wasn’t an unsuccessful season by any means.”

His frustrations over his senior year notwithstanding, Sheffield looks back fondly on what he called an “awesome” college experience.

“Overall, I had a good time and it was a great college experience,” he said. “It was even a good experience when they changed coaches to get to see how two different regimes acted totally different on and off the field. I think it was kind of cool to see how coach (Mike) Leach ran things and how a guy like (Tommy) Tuberville from the SEC ran things.”

Last summer in Spokane, Sheffield threw for 231 yards and five touchdowns in three games. And just like in 2009, when he was sidelined by a broken foot after his first two career starts, he wasn’t finished with adversity.

Sheffield developed a staph infection almost as soon as he arrived in Spokane and spent several days in a hospital.

Now fully recovered, Sheffield looks forward to starting a new season in March and learning from Garcia, a 17-year Arena League veteran.

“He’s going to be the starter,” Sheffield said. “I’m going to try to learn from him the best I can, see how he looks at the game and try to use that to my advantage, adding my own style.”

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Texas Tech in 2010

17 starters were back for "Sticks" senior year. Tech was poised to win the Big 12. The coach thought he had his best team coming to fruition. Then it was determined we needed to "start over." So the coach was dumped over a scenario that did not occur. Two years after our best team was returning, we have a 5-12 conference record. The people who dumped the coach over a scenario that did not occur are still here. There is no such thing as justice in Lubbock. It was executed December 30, 2009.

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RED

Poised to win the Big 12? Really. You are definitely optimistic about that season. Why not try and place some of that optimism into the current team. Oh wait you are only interested if "your" coach is here. Time to move on. Go Tech!

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Glad to see a Tech qb finally

Glad to see a Tech qb finally making it in the pros...even if it is in a back-up role(as ususal). Where are these great qbs that leach put out? The scout team or Arena League. Simply pathetic! That's where all Tech players belong!...Overall,I would say the entire Tech Athletic programs were top notch!....what a joke. Can hardly wait for football season to begin! lolololololol

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Tech Athletics

Tech has had a down year but the track team is top notch Mr. Irish365. Do you think that Wes Welker and Zac Thomas are pathetic? If you do, then Mr. Irish, I would say you were a joke.

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the "track team?"....Wow!

the "track team?"....Wow! lol

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I was a fan of both Sheffield and Potts

I thought Potts took a lot of unnecessary guff from fans. Does anyone know what happened to him after he got cut by St. Louis? I was sure he would play pro ball somewhere. Is he playing in the CFL? Anyone know?

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