Blount Press Row

Guess Who’s Back?

Shiverdecker returns to area with arena Knoxville Nighthawks

Chris Shiverdecker awaits the snap during the 2006 state championship game. Photos by Elizabeth Smith Shinn

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Shiverdecker enjoys the closing minutes of the 2006 title game.

Farragut – He ran for 238 yards and five touchdowns on nine carries in a playoff semifinal his senior season at Alcoa in 2006.

In five playoff games total that season, Chris Shiverdecker rushed for better than 900 yards.

The quarterback on that team was, and remains, one of Shiverdecker’s closet friends. A year later, Randall Cobb signed with Kentucky, the school Shiverdecker seemed destined for the previous season.

Their lives have taken decidedly different paths since.

A promising actor by day, an instructor at National Fitness Center in Maryville by night, Shiverdecker will debut with the Knoxville Nighthawks arena football team this season.

Shiverdecker and former Tornado teammate Rae Sykes opened camp with the Nighthawks earlier this month. The Nighthawks open the season at the Columbus Lions on Sunday.

Knoxville hosts the Richmond Raiders in the home opener Mar. 20 at 7 p.m.

Randall Cobb makes the give to Shiverdecker at the goal line.

Seven years ago, Shiverdecker, Sykes and Cobb were headliners in a wave of Division I college football talent sweeping through Alcoa. In the decade of the 2000s, the Tornadoes produced six Mr. Football winners – Michael George (2001), Brandon Warren (2005), Shiverdecker (2006), Cobb (2007), Tyler Robinson (2008) and Darrell Warren (2010).

Sykes and several others were finalists.

Shiverdecker looked ready to sign with Kentucky the same spring Sykes signed with Tennessee. On national signing day, Shiverdecker chose Carson-Newman.

“I should have stayed the course,” Shiverdecker said.

Cobb and Alcoa coach Gary Rankin. Photo by Brandon Shinn

A year later, Cobb went north to Lexington. After an All-American career with the Wildcats, the former Tornado is an All-Pro receiver with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

Shiverdecker spent three semesters at Carson-Newman before transferring to Georgia Military Academy for a quarter. He was almost a Vol, transferring to Pellissippi State to complete course work after talks with then-Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin. Then Kiffin walked.

Through it all, Shiverdecker continued to work out with former Vol trainer Johnny Long.

“I had some NFL tryouts,” Shiverdecker said. “I didn’t hear anything at the time, but I knew I couldn’t let myself get out of shape. I was depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

“I talked to Randall, and he said, ‘You still have the talent.’”

Shiverdecker eventually caught on with arena football’s Chattanooga Generals. When Knoxville hired Chattanooga coach Cosmo DeMatteo to come north and coach the Nighthawks, DeMatteo made bringing Shiverdecker along a priority.

“He’s somebody I trust,” Shiverdecker said.

Rae Sykes leaves the field during the 2006 title game.

Pro scouts like arena football for the speed of the collisions. Fans like arena football for the speed of the collisions.

The players?

“You have to be tough to play arena football,” Shiverdecker said. “There’s the wall, first of all. Game speed, that helps me a whole lot. Everything’s quicker.”

Work with Long still has the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Shiverdecker delivering NFL-type numbers. His most recent 40 time, run a little over a month ago, is 4.4 seconds. Work at National Fitness with SAQ instructor Chris Shepherd has produced a chiseled physique.

It was Smith County, Alcoa coach Gary Rankin’s alma mater, against whom Shiverdecker produced the playoff spectacular seven years ago.

Shiverdecker raises the championship trophy.

“He was fast,” Rankin said. “I never saw anyone run him down. When he got loose, it was over. I remember what a great kid he was. He always had a smile on his face.

“He jumped around a little bit, but I hope it works out for him. Year by year, that window gets smaller and smaller. It could happen, but it’ll be pretty difficult.”

Considering the road traveled since he electrified the Owls that night, he’s got that part covered, Shiverdecker said.

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