Sometimes, first impressions aren’t necessarily correct. Nic Shimonek learned that earlier this summer.
The Texas Tech senior quarterback said his earlier perception of All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. couldn’t have been more wrong.
After training with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego set up by Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, Shimonek wandered up the California coast to hook up with Beckham for more work the following day.
“I really learned a lot about myself in the two hours I spent with him,” said Shimonek, a junior who enters the Red Raiders’ upcoming training camp as the favorite to replace Patrick Mahomes as the Red Raiders’ starter.
Shimonek’s brush with Beckham came the day after the former LSU standout signed a record $29 million apparel deal with Nike. Beckham’s agreement could pay him twice as much as any shoe deal ever provided to an NFL player.
But even with all of the riches and fame, Beckham couldn’t have been more accommodating. They started with simple passing drills and then worked with Beckham’s personal trainer. Before it was over, Shimonek even met members of Beckham’s family who were attending the workout.
“He’s literally the most humble person I’ve ever met,” Shimonek said. “When I was working with him, he was more interested in helping me in my workout and his normal practice routine than any money or fame. He just wanted to make sure I was getting my quality work in with him. I couldn’t thank him enough.”
That side of Beckman surprised Shimonek, who was expecting more of the personality like the one that the Giants’ superstar shows on the field.
“I went up to him and told him not to take it the wrong way, but I wasn’t expecting you to be like this,” Shimonek said, chuckling. “The fact he went out of his way showed me something.
“He even said that with his past and his altercations he got into with Josh Norman, he’s always in the spotlight. The media tries to portray him into something that he’s not. And if you get to know him like I did, even for a couple of hours, you could see he’s not like that.”
Starting camp as a starter
Beckham’s guidance shouuld shape Shimonek as he approaches Tech’s training camp as the likely starter.
He will be facing some high expectations. Mahomes threw for a nation-best 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns last season. The Red Raiders are the only FBS team ranking among the top seven in team passing each of the last 16 seasons.
Shimonek’s experience is limited. His most extensive playing time came after Mahomes was hurt against Kansas last season.
So much for any jitters. Shimonek responded by passing for 271 yards and four touchdowns to lead Tech to a 55-19 victory.
A big senior season could catapult Shimonek’s draft stock and perhaps give him a shot at following Mahomes to the next level. And if it happens, the Corsicana, Texas, native vows to remember what he learned from Beckham.
“This guy is making all that money arguably as the best at his position in the world,” Shimonek said. “But after working with him, I thought why can’t I be more like that?”
Becoming a leader
Teammates say that they have been impressed with how quickly Shimonek has developed into a leader.
“We have open gym on Saturdays and I can remember back in my freshman and sophomore seasons there wouldn’t be that many people there for it,” senior wide receiver Dylan Cantrell said. “Now, we have the majority of the team getting extra work doing extra drills.
“The big reason why is Nic. He definitely pushes everybody and has high expectations for all of us.”
Shimonek’s friendly persuasion helped convince his teammates to put down their joysticks and work with him.
“The extra work will take you a long way,” Shimonek said. “There’s more a player-led team and more accountability within the players not to let your peers down.
“There’s a level of respect this season. If somebody is going through those workouts and still doing extra work, what’s my excuse? A lot of us have really bought in during the last five or six months and that’s definitely a good thing to see.”