HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– When junior slot receiver Tommy Shuler doesn’t have his helmet on, he dons a bit of scruff on his face. No, he’s not trying to match the facial hair of best friend Rakeem Cato. It’s because he has been a bit preoccupied recently.
“I haven’t had time to get to the barber shop. I’ve been worrying about getting me back together,” says the Marshall single season receptions leader after snagging 110 passes a season ago.
That is how hard Shuler has been working to get back on the field. The coaching staff held him out of drills for the first week of camp, and only started easing him back into practice last week. Shuler, who Doc Holliday says not only loves games but also loves practice, is not accustomed to being held on the sidelines. Part of that comes from the culture he was around playing high school football in Miami, FL.
“Where I come from, we don’t take days off,” Shuler says. “When I was at Miami Central, I broke my hand the day before we played Booker T. (Booker T. Washington HS in Miami) and I played the next day.”
Shuer is itching to get back to action. He was held out of summer workouts and condition and has been forced to watch practice since it started back on August 5th. He says his surgically repaired foot is healthy now, despite not participating in the scrimmage on Saturday night.
“My foot is strong,” says Shuler. “They just don’t want me to go out there and do something crazy. They know our defense is hungry, and then somebody go out there and twist my foot or mess it up.”
As the first game of the season approaches, Shuler understands teams will go about defending him differently, now that outside receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson have graduated. Besides Shuler, Marshall returns Davonte Allen and Craig Wilkins as receivers, plus Mackey Award watch list member Gator Hoskins at tight end. Shawney Kersey and Devon Smith join the receiving corps as transfers from Penn State, but none of those players except Hoskins have proved themselves as threats to be worried about with the Herd as of yet, so that leaves Shuler as the lone tried and tested target for Cato. Even though he will be the focus of attention for opposing defenses, Shuler is ready to get the season underway.
“I feel like that’s going to be great; I like the challenge,” Shuler says of potentially drawing the best defender every week. “I want them to bracket, double team, that gives us a challenge.”
– Braxton Crisp