Shuler receiving guidance
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University wide receiver Tommy Shuler knows he doesn't exactly pass the eye test whenever he steps on the field.
He's not your typical slot receiver, either.
Shuler's a little bit bulky at 5-toot-8, 190 pounds and he's never going to set any speed records while at Marshall.
But Shuler has a few intangibles which separate him from others -- a knowledge and feel for the game of football and a burning desire to succeed when others told him he wouldn't.
Those factors led him to a 110-catch season in 2012, which broke the 25-year-old Marshall record held by Mike Barber. Shuler finished with 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
He's not satisfied after last year's performance, though.
Shuler has dreams of winning a conference championship at Marshall and one day, defeating the tangible odds and making it to the NFL.
Now, Shuler has another important tool in his arsenal -- a position coach who has been on the path Shuler wants to take.
It's an aspect that has quickly built a bond between Shuler and Marshall wide receivers coach Mike Furrey.
"He's been there and no one knows what it takes any better than him," Shuler said.
"He told me when he was at Ohio State that he wasn't that fast, he wasn't that quick, but he knew the game and he knew where to be."
Furrey complimented his returning leader in receptions, saying Shuler's biggest asset cannot be seen with the physical eye.
"Tommy makes a lot of plays because he's a very smart football player," Furrey said. "He knows the game. You don't have to teach him the little ins-and-outs of the football game. You have to teach him to be patient to get there -- he knows what to do, but don't get there so quick. Let it develop."
Shuler is an intense competitor, as is seen on the field daily in practice with his teammates, but he said he's really trying to slow down and take in what Furrey is teaching him now.
Furrey's past with overcoming odds and obstacles give him instant credibility with his leading returnee at wide receiver.
He walked on at Ohio State before transferring to become a record-setter at Northern Iowa.
He made an NFL camp, only to be cut and spend time in the XFL and the Arena Football League before the St. Louis Rams signed him.
And after the Rams moved him to the secondary in 2005, he was signed by Detroit to play receiver on April 4, 2006 -- seven years ago on Thursday.
Furrey went from zero catches in 2005 to 98 catches in 2006 with Detroit before following it up with 61 catches in 2007 and stayed in the league until 2010 when his career ended because of concussions.
Nothing was ever given to Furrey.
He was there through hard work and perseverance.
And nothing was guaranteed. His career ended abruptly after a concussion in training camp just weeks after he had signed with the Washington Redskins in 2010.
That's the exact message Furrey wants to give his team -- nothing given, nothing guaranteed -- all while passing on the lessons given to him while he was privileged to be teammates with NFL wide receivers like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Calvin Johnson.
"I was fortunate to be around some pretty good talent," Furrey said. "I want to teach those guys what they've taught me -- the discipline in routes, the work ethic in practice, the finishing of routes.
"If you get there (to the NFL), great. You'll know how to get there, stay there and to play the game the right way. If not, God has a different path, but I want to give you this because I was fortunate enough for it to be given to me."
That approach has really struck home with Shuler, who came from a tough part of Miami where nothing -- not even the food on the table -- was given to him.
Since day one, Shuler has said he has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he can make it because many from where he's from don't make it.
And Furrey is right there to push him.
"He sends me a text message every night telling me to stay positive and keep doing what I'm doing because I'm blessed," Shuler said. "I take it and come out here and work hard for him because I know he knows what he's doing."
This spring, Shuler will be seen on the field doing what he does best -- being the top slot receiver in Conference USA.
But he'll be receiving much more than a football.
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