KENT: When Pat McShane walked into coach Darrell Hazell’s office in May, it was like a gift-wrapped present from the football gods.
Here was a 6-foot-4, 301-pound former Big Ten offensive lineman asking if the Golden Flashes might need some help.
McShane had been on campus for Hazell’s first season as head coach, but he had seen just one football game — KSU’s 35-3 victory over the University of Akron at InfoCision Stadium last November.
McShane was completely unaware of just how much the team struggled in a 1-6 start, thanks in large part to an ineffective offensive line.
“We had no idea Pat was even here,” Hazell said. “He’d been on campus for a year just going to school. He walked into our office one day and said, ‘Hey, Coach, you know, I have that passion to play again. What do you think?’ ”
McShane was working at his father’s construction company by day and studying criminal justice at night, having chosen to attend KSU over UA because he liked the campus better.
McShane was ranked as the seventh-best interior lineman in Ohio by OhioVarsity.com as a senior at Walsh Jesuit for the 2008-09 season before he committed to Indiana. He sat out his first year with the Hoosiers as a redshirt, then played in all 12 games the next season as a redshirt freshman reserve.
But the deaths of McShane’s grandfather and a best friend coupled with a coaching change left him disinterested in playing. McShane walked away from Indiana.
“My original plan was to just take the summer off, then go back to school,” said McShane, a Stow native “But after being home with my family again, it was hard to leave. I’d lost the heart to play for awhile. I woke up every morning dreading knowing I had to go back.”
But it was during a return trip to visit friends on campus that McShane learned that Hoosiers co-defensive coordinator Brian George had become KSU’s defensive line coach.
“I was like, ‘Wow, what a small world,’ ” McShane said. “I started to wake up every morning realizing I still had that passion for football. Life just wasn’t the same without it.”
Once McShane worked up the courage to give George a call, the direction of McShane’s path quickly changed.
“I was pretty nervous doing it, but I wanted to see if he’d meet with me and just catch up,” McShane said. “Sure enough, I went in there and Coach George introduced me to Coach Hazell. I’d come straight from work, was wearing my jeans and work boots and didn’t really plan out anything to say. I was so nervous, but after five minutes with Coach Hazell, I really wanted to play again.”
The response was all Hazell needed to hear. He concluded the impromptu meeting with: “Let’s get you involved and see where you’re at academically.”
After McShane left, Hazell’s enthusiasm was tempered only by this thought: “When a big guy like that walks into your office and he’s not currently playing football, you instantly wonder what his ability is.
“But Pat’s worked hard to make sure he’s eligible, [changed his major to general studies] and paid for his own way through summer school.”
And now, just a week into preseason football camp, any question Hazell and his coaching staff had about McShane’s abilities have been answered.
“Oh, he’s gonna help us,” Hazell said of the potential starting right guard. “Pat’s pretty good.”
Hazell and his staff aren’t the only one’s noticing the offensive line’s progress.
“Watching cut-ups [of video] from last year and knowing the coaching staff had to move so many people around on the line, they already look better up front,” junior quarterback David Fisher said. “Having [Josh] Kline and [Brian] Winters on the same side and with the addition of Pat, they’re all working well together.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.