Shaq Huff has overcome odds in his life before.
As a small child, he suffered a life threatening accident that threatened to cut him off from the pursuit of his dreams. Since then, he’s excelled in the game of football as a high school standout and former three-star recruiting prospect at Eastside High and most recently as a stalwart presence on the Middle Tennessee State defensive line as a tackle.
Now, he’s preparing to take the next step toward his lifelong dream of playing professional football. The Covington News recently had the chance to chat with Huff in the midst of his preparations for the NFL Combine. Check out what he had to say:
The Covington News: Now that your career at Middle Tennessee State is done, what do you feel like you’ve gained from it that has made you a better football player? How have you improved since the first day you showed up on campus?
Shaq Huff: “From a football standpoint I have learned how to be very technical on the field. How to read offensive linemen, how to come off the ball low and powerful, as well as how to be disciplined within a coach’s defense. What I've improved on the most while at MT is being able to split blocks and the proper way to beat double teams. I didn't learn a lot at MT until Coach Tommy West became the D-Line coach at first I just let my athleticism put me in the right place to make plays but, when he showed up he showed me how to be the smartest guy on the field.”
TCN: Looking back on your days back in Covington and Newton County, how did those experiences get you prepared for where you are trying to go now?
HUFF: “I met a lot of great people growing up in Newton County. The
recreation department molded me into the man I am today. I still talk to most of the guys I grew up playing with. My dad and coach Tim Cartledge taught me how to play football when I was seven years old, and I haven't looked back since then.”
TCN: What was your highlight moment at MTSU and what was your greatest challenge?
HUFF: “It's so many to choose from. There is my freshman year we came to Georgia and beat (Georgia) Tech. My sophomore year when we beat Memphis and I got my first career sack. Junior year going to the Bahamas Bowl, which was my first time going to the Bahamas. Or just this past year going to Hawaii and experiencing their culture. It's too many to choose from. The greatest challenge I had at MT was playing against Bama. They have so many great players. It was one of the toughest games I've ever played.”
TCN: Do you remember the accident you had when you were a kid? Your mother told us about it. How did overcoming that give you confidence to overcome obstacles on the football field?
HUFF: “I do not remember anything from that day, only the stories my family has told me through the years. At first it was tough being in a cast from the hip down, not being able to walk or run with my brothers and cousins. When I first got out the cast I played baseball. Yeah, baseball was the first sport I ever played. I wasn't very good at it, but I could run. After the season my older brother played football. I had never been to a game before, but seeing him run and score touchdowns I fell in love with the game. Then the next year my dad signed me up and the rest is history. Being raised with a loving family and a positive foundation pushed me to feel I could play and do anything.”
TCN: Describe what you’re doing now to prepare for the NFL Combine? What are your workouts like? Who are you training with and where are you training?
HUFF: "Right now I am in Indianapolis at St Vincent training facility training for my Pro-day. My first workout starts at 8:30 a.m. until 10. Then we go to position workouts after. Then, we workout again from 2 until 4 p.m. in the weight room. Specifically, I’m working to improve my vertical jump, broad Jump and bench press.”
TCN: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing as you’re getting ready for the Combine?
HUFF: “The biggest challenge I have right now is losing weight and eating six times a day, which is what we are also working towards at St. Vincent. I am on a strict diet, and so far I have lost six pounds since I've been here. They are showing me the right way to eat as well as the right things to eat.”
TCN: How much will it mean for you to have a shot to play at the NFL? What do you think you’ll do if you get the chance to make a roster?
HUFF: “It would mean the world to me as well as the people that have supported me since I was a seven years old kid. To show kids that are in Rec and middle school that it's not easy. But if you stick with it, continue to put the work in, and do well in school it is possible.”
TCN: Why is playing on the NFL level such a big desire for you?
HUFF: “It's been my dream since I started playing the game. I set a goal when I was seven that I was going to make it to the NFL, and being this close is a dream come true, but I am not done yet. I also love inspiring people younger than me. To be that type of role model and being able to tell kids, ‘Look I came from here the same place you’re at and look what hard work and staying out of trouble gets you.’”