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Stith flourishes in the shadows

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Thursday December 30, 1999 05:25 PM


NEW ORLEANS -- Shyrone Stith was seated less than 200 feet from Michael Vick, but Stith was unable to see his teammate, who was fully engulfed by cameras and microphones. Stith, a 5'8", 209-pound junior running back, glanced over at the horde surrounding Virginia Tech's redshirt freshman quarterback and breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn't drawing all the attention.

The scene in a conference room at the Hyatt Regency encapsulated Stith's stellar season for the undefeated Hokies: Vick basking in the spotlight while Stith blended in the background and quietly did his job.

"That's the way I like it," says Stith. "I could come out here every day and look to talk to the media but that's not me. I just try to sit back and do my job without saying much. I'm a real quiet guy and I like to keep to myself. I'm glad Michael is getting all the press. He deserves it, and it takes even more pressure off me."

"I feel bad all those things happened to Peter Warrick. He should have won the Heisman Trophy, definitely. He's the best player in college football. It's just not right."
—Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick
While most pundits have planted the outcome of the Sugar Bowl squarely on Vick's shoulders, the key to the game for Virginia Tech could be Stith. "Shyrone's got great speed and isn't fancy, but he's effective," says Hokie offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle. "He's a one-cut guy. The hole doesn't have to be open for very long; he's going to make a cut and hit it quickly."

After rushing for 1,173 yards in his first two seasons, Stith nearly equaled that total this year with 1,119 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a first- team All-Big East selection, led the conference in total yards and was second in scoring and kickoff returns. But with all the talk of Vick and All- America defensive end Corey Moore, Stith has been an afterthought as Tech prepares to play Florida State for the national championship.

"I'll be there when it's time to play the game," says Stith. "All the other stuff doesn't bother me. But when the game starts people will know who I am."

Edwards seeks redemption

When we last saw Florida State cornerback Mario Edwards in a national championship game, he was flailing at a Tee Martin pass and watching from the turf as Peerless Price scored on a 79-yard touchdown in Tennessee's 23-16 victory over the Seminoles in last year's Fiesta Bowl.

"That's ancient history now," says Edwards, a 6'2", 195-pound senior. "Come game time it will be 365 days ago. I thought about it for about 65 days but now it's just gone. It's too bad that's what people remember of me from last season."

After getting thrown out of school for disciplinary reasons in 1997, Edwards had an outstanding season last year, leading the team in interceptions (six) and passes broken up (11). Edwards' numbers have been down this season (read: no interceptions), but he was still an All-ACC selection and is eager to prove to the nation that he's one of the best corners in college football.

"Anytime you have an outstanding season it's hard to duplicate it," says Edwards. "Sometimes you're a victim of your own success. I think that's what happened to me."

Stopping Vick

All week, Florida State has been working on a way to neutralize Vick, and junior linebacker Brian Allen thinks he has an answer. "We have to use our speed to our advantage and take away all the angles," says Allen, who was second on the team with 101 tackles. "Vick is a very talented player but he's still a freshman. We have to hit him hard and make him think about it when he gets up. We have to confuse him."

Short has long memory

Virginia Tech center Keith Short has no trouble remembering the last time the Hokies played in the Sugar Bowl. As a freshman in 1995, Short wasn't there to witness his teammates' win over Texas. A few days prior to the game, Short had a little too much fun on Bourbon Street and missed curfew by two hours. He was sent back to Blacksburg on a bus, which turned out to be a 26-hour trip.

"Keith doesn't say much, but he talked to the team when we first got down here," says Tech coach Frank Beamer. "His speech wasn't very long, but let's just say it was inspirational."

Short's previous experience hasn't deterred him from enjoying the Big Easy this time around. A stamp from Harrah's Casino was visible on his right hand as he spoke to the media on Thursday.

"I'm going to make sure I have a good time, but I can assure you I won't miss curfew again," he said. "The first night I got in about 11:30, but last night I pushed it until 2 a.m." Any New Year's plans? No, I'm not going out," says Short. "I'm afraid of the Y2K problem."

Dumb Question of the Day

Another lesson from the Are You Serious? school of journalism, asked of Stith:

Q: You don't have Barry Sanders-type moves. Do you wish you did?

A: Duh!

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