By Raymond Linex II
MILDRED — You can’t pull a four-inch thick book off the shelf, blow the dust off the cover and find it on the pages inside. A comprehensive digital database doesn’t exist to prove it.
But there is little doubt when Nic Shimonek walks off the field the last time for the Mildred Eagles, he’ll do so owning every significant career passing record in the history of the Golden Circle.
“I can’t think of anyone else close,” said Kerens coach Russell Anderson, as close to a Golden Circle aficionado on quarterbacks as you’ll find.
Anderson also has coached in Wortham and Corsicana, and has had four of the most exciting and successful dual-threat quarterbacks in the area, ever. At Wortham, it was Michael Betts and Damien Dixon, and in Kerens, Austin Bell and Patrick Faulk.
He also had a good career of his own, playing for his dad Jerry at Kerens from 1981 to 1984, before pass-happy spread offenses became as customary at high schools as text books and short lunches.
“I passed for 4,446 yards and 51 touchdowns,” Anderson said. “That pales in comparison to the numbers Shimonek has put up.
“I’d say Austin Bell probably had the most passing yards in the area before Shimonek.”
From 2004-’06, Bell threw for 5,604 yards and 60 touchdowns. Shimonek has blown by those numbers the last two seasons.
He had 64 touchdown passes coming into the season. He’s now at 96, four away from the magical number of 100. He is 123 yards away from 8,000 after entering the year with 5,497. He surpassed 900 attempts in last week’s 45-35 win over Nocona, and tossed his 500th completion Nov. 2 in a 72-0 win at Dallas Oak Cliff Life.
The line on Shimonek’s four years at Mildred: 541 of 903, 7,877 yards, 96 touchdowns and 28 interceptions (20 of which came his first two seasons).
“In an article earlier in the year, it said I was the most prolific passer in the Golden Circle,” said Shimonek, a student of local sports history, “and I stopped and thought, ‘I can’t remember anybody passing for as much.’”
And they haven’t.
The Iowa-commit has been a steady producer, and a steady study, improving every season. As a freshman, playing part time, he threw for 673 yards and six touchdowns. And 11 interceptions.
“Looking back at my freshman year, especially the down times, I honestly thought I may never play again,” Shimonek said.
He started the season at quarterback. Was benched. Started in a big win over Kerens when Daniel Folsom was hurt. Then benched again when Folsom came back. But, as most veteran players will tell you, even at the high school level, some great things came out of that season.
“I just wasn’t mature,” said Shimonek, who said other sports at the high school level came easier to him as a freshman. “I was not able to soak everything in like I am now. (Coaches) would tell me a defensive key, and I’d forget it.
“If coach (Patrick Harvell) got onto me, I’d just crumble. Looking back at it now, at the time, I couldn’t see any of this happening. One of the best things that happened was me learning so much from that year and me and coach getting through it.”
Harvell could see it happening.
His first year, the Eagles were still under center, but they made the move to the spread midway through. Shimonek was an eighth grader tearing up the junior high ranks through the air. A transfer cost Harvell his starting quarterback a year later, and Shimonek found himself thrust into the starter’s role as a freshman. It was rocky, but the writing was on the wall even as the Eagles made the switch to Folsom, a sophomore, and more of a running threat.
“The first time I stepped on campus I could see he had a special ability a lot of kids don’t have,” Harvell said. “He could throw the ball, and throw it accurately as an eighth grader.
“During the up and down times of his freshman year, I never lost faith that he’d have the opportunity he has right now.”
At times, Harvell said, he was a little too hard on Shimonek, “but I was trying to prepare him mentally for what he’s been able to do the last two years.”
Four years ago, Harvell knew he had a college quarterback in the program.
The next year, the torch was passed. Folsom moved to wide receiver, a year before having an all-state season with Shimonek passing to him. Shimonek settled in and threw for almost 1,900 yards and 21 touchdowns, leading the Eagles to their first playoff win in Class 2A, and first since 2000.
Last year, Shimonek established himself as Mildred’s finest signal caller ever, one of the Golden Circle’s best, and put himself on the map, both statewide and nationally.
“It was definitely memorable,” Shimonek said. “A lot of my best friends were on that team, D-Fo (Folsom) and D-Ho (Daniel Donoho).”
The team ventured into uncharted waters, the school’s first perfect regular season, a 13-0 start, a berth in the semifinals. To say Shimonek was outstanding would be an understatement.
He passed for 2,939 yards and 37 touchdowns, and was intercepted only three times. One of those came on the last play of the year, into the end zone in a 35-28 loss to Cisco, which would go on to fall in the state finals to Refugio, 36-35.
Afterward, he would post on Facebook, “… I personally guarantee, and hold me to this everybody, that the Mildred eagles will not get that close to the big stage and fall short as long as I'm at this school. …”
“We’re back in the same position,” he said Monday. “I’m going to do everything I can to not have that same feeling.
“These guys,” he said, looking around an emptying field house after practice, “they’ll back me up.”
Shimonek’s always had a personal drive to succeed. Tired of being compared to his brother, a former All-Golden Circle baseball player of the year, Nic adopted a personal saying that came after that freshman season: “Exceeding all expectations.” He had it stenciled into the floor board of his truck, and last summer, when he turned 18, he had it tattooed on his right side, right under his record-breaking right arm.
From a passing standpoint, Shimonek’s been a little less “prolific” as a senior. He’d have to throw 65 times Friday to match his 2011 number of attempts through 14 games. He’s five touchdowns shy of last year’s totals, but has two more interceptions.
Two have come on balls right through a receiver’s hands, and one on a jump ball.
“He’s the most accurate quarterback I’ve seen,” said Anderson, whose Bobcats haven’t played Mildred the last three falls, but has done so each summer in 7-on-7.
The Eagles have been a far better running team this fall, but when Shimonek has been called upon, he’s delivered through the air, such as last week’s 213-yard, two touchdown performance. He had thrown for 204 yards in the previous two playoff games.
“Anytime you have a young man like Nic, it makes your job exponentially easier in regards to information and applying it to a game situation,” Mildred offensive coordinator William Braswell said.
Shimonek called Braswell a genius, and said the two talk so much during the week, he knows the 20 plays Braswell is going to script to start a game. “At least the top 10, for sure,” Shimonek said.
And Braswell likes to run. The Eagles are averaging 20 yards less through the air this year, but running for about 100 yards more per game.
That’s no issue with Shimonek, who has become a running threat as a senior. He has almost twice as many carries this year (108-58) and almost four times as many yards (736-221) as last year.
“I love running,” Shimonek said.
Harvell still tells him he’s slow, Shimonek laughed, and Braswell said he’s been successful because defenders are not used to dealing with someone so slow in the open field. But give him a little credit. He has 15 touchdowns, and rarely is tackled by the first guy. In sixth grade, he broke his tibia and fibula playing select basketball. He was fast before, he said, but never was much of a runner since until this year.
His first two seasons, he had a combined minus-10 yards rushing.
“This year I think I am a lot thicker and stronger,” Shimonek said. “I’m not afraid to stick my nose in it. I don’t mind running into a hole and getting hit.”
That was evident in the 44-14 win over Clarksville two weeks ago, when he scored three times on the ground, and took shots at the goal line on two them.
Nevertheless, no one’s going to remember his ground game.
Shimonek said he hasn’t thought much about the passing numbers. They are there, all right, and hard to ignore, but he’s focused more on making sure the semifinals are not Mildred’s last leg of the season again.
In five, 10 years, who knows?
“Those numbers are nice, but at the same time, I’d rather look back and have memories with these guys,” Shimonek said. “I definitely wouldn’t trade any of these memories for a couple of more passing TDs.”
Mildred senior Nic Shimonek has piled up some gaudy numbers through the air. Here is a look at his season-by-season totals:
Year C-A-I % Yds. TDs Long
2009 64-143-11 44.8 673 6 42
2010 139-243-9 57.2 1,885 21 9
2011 193-291-3 66.3 2,939 37 84
2012 145-226-5 64.2 2,380 32 73
Career 541-903-28 59.9 7,877 96 84