One Step at a Time

2011 prospect plans to put in hard work during the season with hopes of it paying off next year.

Unlike most highly touted football recruits, Elijah Shumate isn’t speaking with prospective college coaches. It’s not because he isn’t interested in playing at the next level. It’s not because he’s waiting for a better offer. Shumate just knows that right now, he has a job to do.

In September, Shumate will begin speaking to the college coaches that have are interested in putting a jersey on his back. Until then, he’ll let his high school football coaches do the work.

“[Waiting until September to speak with coaches] isn’t really a big concern,” Shumate said. “I’m just trying to do good this year and hope to get in touch when I can – during the middle of the season.”

Instead, Shumate has spent his summer preparing for his junior season at Don Bosco (NJ). The 6-1, 155-pound defensive back said he has been “working hard with my team every day of the week” and he has high expectations for this season.

“We look good. [We are] very young, but talented. [Our goal is] to win another state championship.”

When Shumate has some time to spare between his football practices and workouts, he has been putting in time doing footwork drills, something he feels he needs to work on to reach his potential.

“I’ve been working hard – doing extra stuff on the weekends,” Shumate said. “It’s going to help my speed, agility and quickness to the ball. Also, [footwork drills] will help my change of direction skills.”

Shumate added that this extra effort is necessary become “a great player with versatility.”

But if you’re wondering where this work ethic comes from, look no further than his family. Shumate’s father and uncle were both football players; his father a defensive back and his uncle a linebacker. Both have played an enormous role in Elijah’s love for the game.

“It has affected my football career because they have been giving me lots of knowledge of learning the game and my positions,” Shumate said.

To that point, his father and uncle’s playing careers sparked Elijah’s passion since he first got to see it played. He said it was an instant match because “it’s a contact sport.” Today, that passion has translated into a dedication for Shumate.

“My dedication is to continue to work hard and continue to improve and be the best player to ever play the game.”

High expectations? Aside from his family, Shumate aspires to play the position as well as the likes of Sean Taylor and Roger Craig. Taylor was a safety who was titled the “hardest hitting player in the player in the game” by Sports Illustrated in 2007. Craig is a four-time Pro Bowler and one-time First Team All-Pro.

It is evident that Shumate possesses high character, so it is no wonder why he has grabbed the attention of colleges throughout the nation. Arizona, Boston College, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USC and Virginia Tech have all shown interest.

But for Elijah, his top three choices have been Pittsburgh, Miami and North Carolina. And despite having visited any of the schools, he already can see what each program can offer.

“I have just been a big [Miami] fan since I was five years old. I know a lot of people who go [to Pittsburgh] and they say it’s a really good school. [North Carolina] is another school I liked for a minute – it’s a building program.”

However, there may be a wild card in this race: the Maryland Terrapins. The team has been keeping in close contact with the Shumate’s coaches, and has a subtle advantage among the other colleges…location.

Elijah’s family, who to this point have had an important role in Elijah’s football career every step of the way, have advised Elijah to stay close by so they can continue watching him play.

As for Elijah, he also sees the Terps’ upside. Shumate said that he’s looking for a good school, in terms of a football program and academics, a nice area and a place where he can envision himself at – so far, Maryland fits the bill.

“[Maryland] is interested. They reached out to my coaches about me. It’s close to home,” he explained. “[When] one of my teammates was visiting the school, [he] said it was a beautiful campus and nice area, so that’s a possibility.”

But Shumate also has higher hopes. While he plans on majoring in sports management in college, he thinks that he could run a professional sports franchise.

“I’m thinking of one day being an owner of a pro team,” Shumate said. “I am a leader and I think it would fit me well getting my own team and putting the pieces together to build a dynasty.”

When asked if that leadership translated onto the football field, Elijah responded, “Of course.”

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