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Last Thursday I drove up to the Sussex Tech practice to meet with Coach Leach to get some intel on the team for the Morris Sussex Sports preseason football preview. I was anxious to meet everyone, and to see their 6-0, 210-pound runningback Shyheim Outland in action on the practice field. After all, he was the leading rusher in Sussex County as a junior with over 1,700 yards. I watched the offense run a handful of plays and it was evident he wasn’t there. “Where’s your back?” I call over to Leach. “He went home. He’s not feeling well,” he answers.

I was disappointed I wasn’t able to meet the human highlight reel but I did enjoy talking with the rest of the guys. I spent a little time hanging out with them after practice and I could tell they were a tight group of friends that like to cut it up. But they were very serious when the topic of their Week 1 opponent Pennington came up. “We’ll be ready for them, don’t worry about that,” one player says to me.

As much confidence as the rest of the guys have, I am sure they were counting on their star runningback to play the Pennington game. But the following day, Shyheim was still very ill. “I talked to his mom Friday night and she told me that they went to the Omni Care center and the doctor said he’s got something. I was totally prepared for him not to come to the game on Saturday,” Coach Leach explains.

Joe Bouffard, Assistant Vice President of Player Development at Football University, awards Shyheim Outland with the FBU Week Zero Player of the Week Award certificate.

Joe Bouffard, Assistant Vice President of Player Development at Football University, awards Shyheim Outland with the FBU Week Zero Player of the Week certificate.

But then at 8:45am Saturday morning Coach Leach got a call from Outland. “He said he was going to try to play,” Leach says. “I was so happy. But I knew he wasn’t going to be 100% so we were going to limit him.” But during the game, Outland was feeling okay. “I kept asking him if he wanted to come out and he was like, ‘No, I’m feeling pretty good.’ So he played a lot of the game.”

Feeling good he was. Outland finished the game with 27 carries, 206 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not only that, his performance was critical in helping the Mustangs out-duel Pennington by a score of 21-18.

Coach Leach and Shyheim pose for a photo after FBU's Joe Bouffard delivers the runningback he's FBU Week Zero Player of the Week certificate.

Coach Leach and Shyheim pose for a photo after FBU’s Joe Bouffard delivers the runningback he’s FBU Week Zero Player of the Week certificate.

Morris Sussex Sports and Football University are teaming up this season to honor our weekly Player of the Week. Football University is the leading player development organization in the country that teaches players techniques to perform at a highest level possible on the field. We are proud to award Shyheim Outland with the FBU Week Zero Player of the Week for demonstrating the kind of talent and technique that helped his team overcome adversity and win their first game of the season.

I caught up with Shyheim to talk about the past weekend, learn about his offseason routine and ask him about the make up of this Mustang team.

George Muha: How crappy where you feeling Friday night?
Shyheim Outland: Really crappy. I had a headache, I was sneezing, my throat was killing me and I had a temperature. I honestly didn’t think I was going to play Saturday. I don’t know how I did. But I woke up and I felt decent so I felt that my team needed me and I was going be there to support them and be by their side.

GM: What convinced you to try and play on Saturday?
SO: My team. All I could think about Friday night was these guys are my family and no matter what I need to be there for them. I can’t let them think I quit on them because I never would. Also I just love football so I was going to play no matter what, I wasn’t going to miss my last first senior game, that’s crazy.

GM: Do you think you were up to a 27 carry, 206 yard and 2 touchdown game?
SO: No. I really wasn’t expecting to do much in the game. Before I went out on the field I was starting to feel slightly dizzy so I really thought I was going to play a bad game. That just shows with the right mindset you can overcome anything.

GM: What would surprise people about this Sussex Tech team?
SO: I think just how close and what a great group of friends we are. We’re always laughing and having fun. There is no one that really fights or doesn’t get along were. A lot of that, I think, is because of camp it really brings all of us together as one.

GM: Who would you say is the strongest player on your team?
SO: I think the strongest kid is Brandon Boyd.

GM: Who on your team could beat you in a foot race?
SO: I think I may be the fastest on the team.

GM: Who would you say is the unsung hero?
SO: I honestly don’t know, we all work hard.

GM: Who keeps things loose with humor on your team?
SO: Nick Catania, he’s always so unpredictable and he’s always saying something funny and usually gets a reaction from everyone.

GM: After not making it to the playoffs for your first three years of playing varsity football, how badly do you want to get to the dance?
SO: I want it so bad and so does the team. Every year we have been getting closer and closer but somehow we always just miss it. Now being a senior that would be really special to make it to states. All summer when we lift we write “MetLife” on the chalk board. We’ve never been there and that’s our ultimate goal.

GM: What kind of things do you do to prepare your body in the offseason?
SO: During the spring I do track and field. That helps my running and power. I do the 100 meter, 200 meter, discus and shot put. All this helps me stay in shape. When that is over I start weight room with the team which is the beginning of football in the summer.

GM: Do you change your workout during the season?
SO: No.

GM: Do you do any kind of things to help your body recover from games and tough practices?
SO: Not really just drink water and Gatorade. Also a lot of stretching.

GM: Do you have any pregame rituals?
SO: No, I just love music and it gets me really pumped. In the locker room we blast stuff that will pump us up.

GM: Do you have a nickname?
SO: No.

GM: We call you Shyheim “The Dream.” Do you like that?
SO: (Laughs) I forgot about that one. That’s a good one, I do like that!

GM: What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off?
SO: Sleep. Football exhausts my body so I need to be well rested for that upcoming week to prepare for the next opponent. But if I’m awake I like to just chill with friends.

GM: Who is the greatest athlete of all time?
SO: LaDainian Tomlinson. He is my idol. When he played for the San Diego Chargers as the running back he was a tank. I love watching him run with the ball.

GM: Why do you wear the number you do?
SO: LaDainian Tomlinson, that is his number.

GM: In the movie about your life, who would play you?
SO: (laughs) I don’t know that’s a hard question.

GM: Shyheim, thanks again for your participation! Congrats to you and your team and best of luck the rest of the way!
SO: Thank you very much sir, it means a lot!

Every week of the 2015 season, Joe Bouffard from Football University, in conjunction with Morris Sussex Sports, will go hand deliver the FBU Player of the Week Award certificate to that week’s honoree. 

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.

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