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Shirkey, Cardinal strives to get better

August 20, 2012
Underthelights

By BOB ETTINGER

Tribune Chronicle correspondent

The Cardinal Huskies finished the 2011 football season with a 1-9 record. That doesn't mean a whole lot in regards to the 2012 season.

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Shirkey

"It motivates us, but it's not like that's going to be a focus for us this year," senior running back Tommy Shirkey said. "We have a lot of other thing to focus on. We've got to get better right now. We're not setting our goals off of last year. We're going on a day-by-day basis. We have new goals.

"Last year was disappointing. We had a young team and we struggled a lot. We're hungry this year, but we have too many other things to worry about than last year."

With a young group and a tough schedule, Shirkey still rushed for 1,001 yards a season ago. He could be poised to improve on that number. But Shirkey understands that may not be the case, either, although he understands he could rush for more yards.

"But at the same time, it looks like our roster is set up that we have enough running backs that we can spread things out," he said. "Last year, I was pretty much the only back and I got to handle the ball a lot.

"I won't have to play the entire game like last year. I can do better, but the entire team can carry the load. I am happy to see the other running backs do great, too. I'm not focused on myself doing better. I'm focused on the team winning."

Even for a senior, that's a show of maturity rarely seen. But Shirkey understands that successful football teams are driven by individuals seeking glory, but by each player doing what he can to make the team better as a whole.

"I've been playing football 13 years," he said. "At one point, it was about me. As a freshman and sophomore, I worried more about my stats. Now, it's different. I'm worried about more than just me. I'm worried about giving back (to the program). It's not just about myself.

"If I play hard, my stats will be what they will be. It's not something I'm worried about right now."

That approach will make a leader of Shirkey faster than any other. But he isn't doing it to set an example. He is just thinking of the team.

"I hope (the rest of the team is following me)," Shirkey said. "But I'm not doing it to have people look up to me. I'm doing it because that's the way I want to approach the season. I think if everyone does look up to me and everyone does that, it will show at the end of the season."

The reason is simple. Shirkey wants the Cardinal program to return to a high level of competition.

"I just want people to look at the program as a good program," he said. "I don't want them to look at Cardinal and see a weak team.

"We are Cardinal football. For the seniors, this it. I just want ot leave something good behind. The lat couple of years, we haven't been playing good. I want to turn that around. I want people around here to be happy with Cardinal football."

Shirkey also knows that he may be a bit of lone wolf in his thinking, but he's OK with that.

"The way I think about it, I don't know that everyone else does," he said. "Maybe it's maturity or maybe it's the end of my career and that's why I'm approaching it that way. All I can focus on is making myself better."

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