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MailTribune.com
  • SEMI-PRO FOOTBALL

    Shed proves unstoppable

    From standout DI football athlete to dominating semi-pro player, his passion has never wavered
  • For four days and four nights, Patrick Shed traveled on a westward journey.
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    • PATRICK SHED
      WHO: A 5-foot-7, 180-pound running back/receiver/return specialist with the Southern Oregon Renegades.
      • up next: Saturday, Southern Oregon at South King County Colts, 6 p.m., Sumner, Was...
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      PATRICK SHED
      WHO: A 5-foot-7, 180-pound running back/receiver/return specialist with the Southern Oregon Renegades.

      • up next: Saturday, Southern Oregon at South King County Colts, 6 p.m., Sumner, Wash.
      • OF NOTE: Shed played two seasons at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, leading the team in rushing yards and receptions his junior year and ranking third in the nation in all-purpose yards.
  • For four days and four nights, Patrick Shed traveled on a westward journey.
    The 24-year-old Starkville, Miss., native stuffed his gym bag with essentials last May before being dropped off at the bus station in Tupelo, Miss., Elvis Presley's birthplace.
    Along the way, Shed looked out at long roads and wondered what the future held for him in Medford, where one of his seven brothers lived. He dreamt back to his days at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was a standout NCAA Division I running back and return specialist with NFL aspirations. An injury later, his professional chances seemed to deteriorate.
    Shed thought about his crossroads, his triumphs and his setbacks and remembers asking himself on the bus: What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
    One thing was clear.
    "Playing football may be something just for fun," he says. "I love the game of football. It is my way of getting away from everything. It's peace of mind."
    Here Shed is now: one of the greatest semi-professional football players to ever play for the Southern Oregon Renegades (5-4).
    The 5-foot-7, 180-pound running back/wide receiver/return man has averaged about four touchdowns a game while recording inflated team-best statistics in every rushing and receiving category for the club, which travels to play the South King County Colts in the first round of the Pacific Football League playoffs Saturday.
    All this for a squad that he pays to play on, in front of handfuls of fans, completely off the radar.
    "You have to start somewhere," Shed says. "You have to prove yourself, no matter what level you are playing at."
    Off the field, Shed works as a life coach at Hearts With A Mission, which serves homeless and at-risk youth, and he coaches basketball and football at Sacred Heart Catholic School.
    "I love working with kids," he says. "Hanging out with them, taking them on outings, listening to their stories."
    Shed's older brother, Medford resident Tanny Flowers, had offered to host him two years earlier, but it wasn't until their grandmother Jessie passed away in April that Shed made up his mind.
    The Renegades' campaign to recruit Shed began as soon as he was discovered, which didn't take long. Before Southern Oregon head coach Rockne DeMello had met the newcomer, family friend Junior Lologo pulled up a YouTube video of him.
    It was impressive, DeMello recalls, as were his numbers at UAB.
    As a junior at UAB, Shed led the program in rushing yards (847) and receptions (47), set the school record for catches by a running back, ranked No. 3 in the country in all-purpose yards (177.1), finished with seven touchdowns and was named a Doak Walker Award candidate. He was viewed as a possible situational ballcarrier and return specialist at the next level.
    UAB went 4-8 in 2010, when Shed was an All-Conference USA honorable mention after transferring from East Mississippi Community College. But during the sixth game of his senior year, Shed suffered an MCL sprain at Tulsa on Oct. 15 that put him on crutches and ended his season. His first thought was that he would never play again.
    Shed never required surgery and healed well, but says he was tabbed as "the player with the knee injury." One website said of Shed: "He must quickly get back to health and show no ill-effects from the knee injury to have any chance of getting out of camp this summer."
    Shed says he was ill-prepared at his senior pro day before NFL scouts when he ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash.
    "It was a disaster," he says. "You can be doing so great and then get dropped like a hot potato."
    The feeling of rejection was familiar. College coaches from major universities visited at Starkville High, but Shed was always left empty handed. He paved his own way at EMCC before getting his shot at UAB.
    "No matter how hard the obstacle, you just have to believe and never give up," he says.
    Shed graduated with a degree in health and fitness and worked at St. Vincent Hospital in Birmingham for six months. He had a short stint with the Louisana Swashbucklers of the National Indoor Football League but left with a mindset that "was still getting to the NFL or CFL then."
    DeMello picked up on Shed's determination during their first meeting.
    "He was quiet and soft-spoken," DeMello says. "The confident ones — the ones who are really good — are like that."
    Shed's first game since the injury came on Sept. 28, 2013, in the Renegades' Skittlez 41 Bowl at Spiegelberg Stadium. The contest honors former player Kris Butler, who died in a car crash.
    Flowers, who is 11 years older than Shed, had never seen him play in-person until that day. They are two of nine siblings: eight boys and one girl.
    "It is kind of surreal to have him here," Flowers says. "I used to change his diapers and now to see the young man that he has become, it's an incredible transformation."
    Everybody has a Shed story now. They usually involve cutbacks, Ferrari acceleration and trips to the end zone.
    On June 28, Shed rushed for touchdowns of 94 and 62 yards, caught a 64-yard TD pass from third-year Renegades quarterback Anthony Gonzalez and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to the signal caller in a 38-28 win over Portland.
    "We've had some very good running backs, don't get me wrong," Gonzalez says. "But with Pat, oh my, it's nasty."
    Adds DeMello: "He gives me a player-coach and a world-class athlete."
    Will Shed get noticed and move on to bigger leagues, or will he stay and build on his foundation? These are questions he contemplates now.
    What Shed is certain of is this: He's thankful that the football journey has not come to an end.
    "To come back and play the game I love and be just as good as before I got hurt, I think it's a blessing from God," he says.
    Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt
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