Overview: Eric Shufford is senior who started off his college career playing for Weber State and San Bernardino Valley College before transferring to the University of South Dakota. He started off his football career playing quarterback before converting into a wide receiver. He is a speedster at the wide receiver position who knows how to get open and can also play special teams. In 2014, while playing for the University of South Dakota he won awards such as the Henry Heider Most Valuable Player award and the David Triplett Offensive Player of the Year award. In 2015, he was elected a team captain.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric, during which time he told me more about his background, his personality, his dreams, and his overall love for football.
Christa: For the people who do not know your story, how did you wind up choosing University of South Dakota?
ES: I wound up at South Dakota by a blessing honestly. It was December of 2013, after my JUCO season and I got a call from Coach Marquice Williams. He introduced himself and offered me a scholarship within like 20 seconds. No time wasted, no games played, straight to the point. I had offers from other places as well as communication from some others, but Marquice saw me, Coach Middleton saw me, and they said they wanted me then and there. I loved how they were honest and upfront and serious. Then I met Coach Glenn and I was sold. He is one of the greatest men I know and he is one hell of a coach.
C: Since you are from a smaller school, how do you plan on making yourself stand out and noticed by scouts?
ES: Honestly, I just stick to what got me here in the first place. Work harder than I did yesterday, tune out the noise, and let my work speak for itself. I honestly never looked at it as having to sell myself because I am at a small school. I’ve always told myself that I only needed a chance to prove I belong. Everyone that said I didn’t or that said I couldn’t is standing on the sideline watching me chase my dream. Romans 8:31
C: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
ES: My strengths would be my versatility, my ability to catch in traffic, my willingness to put my body on the line to make plays, and my football intelligence. My biggest weakness would have to be the amount of time I spent at WR. Having only played for one year before college, most guys knew they were going to play receiver from youth leagues. I only played my junior year of high school and even then I had a much bigger emphasis on QB. But I used that time I spent at QB and that experience as a way to help my bridge the gap using my mental ability.
C: What separates you from the other players at your position?
ES: My ability to out think my opponents. They say the game is 90% mental. In my mind, you can win or lose a play before it even starts. I use what I know to win when pure athleticism won’t get it done.
C: Which current or former NFL player do you think you resemble and why?
ES: I would have to say Steve Smith. I play a lot bigger than I am, I believe that I am the best player on the field at all times, the only way to prove me otherwise would be to stop me. I might not be the highest rated or the biggest or even the best, but until you prove to me that I’m not, I’ll continue to play that way.
C: Who is the toughest player you’ve ever faced in your college career?
ES: D. Hall from UNI was great competition because he was such a versatile defender. I even got to work out with him over the summer while I was in Missouri and we were both competing. Some of my best competition came in practice against our two starting corners. CT and Mike Lil were two different styles of corners that forced me to change up what I was doing all the time. They helped make me a better player day in and day out.
C: What is the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you in your college career?
ES: This wasn’t in my college career, but while attending the Darin Slack QB camp my sophomore year of high school, I was told that “Nothing I do in life will be for myself.” That resonated with me even at a young age because it made me a better player, a better teammate, and a better leader. I still hear that in my head to this day when I think that I’m tired or I want to stop. I remember there are people depending on me. I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing this for my younger brothers and younger kids from my city that are looking up to me.
C: How do you prepare for game day? Do you have any game day rituals?
ES: I will come out to the field early with my headphones on. Do a quick warm up, then go into routes with one of my QBs. I run about 8 routes on each side before I work on some releases with my coach. I go back into the locker room, get dressed, and then after the coin toss, I walk to the far end of the sideline, take a knee, and say a prayer. I’ve added putting 2 fingers to the sky when I finish for a good friend of mine, like a little brother to me, who was killed in August of 2014. (SAM)
C: Where do you see yourself in five years?
ES: Hopefully competing in the NFL or still pursuing my football career. That is the goal and that will always be my main focus. Once I know that is done, I will finish work on other things I have going on. I have plans for what I want to ultimately do with my life, but I have tunnel vision right now so I see myself playing football still.
C: What was your favorite moment/play at University of South Dakota?
ES: My favorite moment would have to be the win in the FargoDome. It was crazy, it was loud, it was fun, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life and my football career.
Locker Room Update would like to thank Eric Shufford for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as an NFL 2016 draft prospect.
You can check out his highlights here
Follow him on Twitter: @_EShuJr