Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shyrone Stith Card #1 - And a little explanation

Shyrone Stith is not a football player that most people are aware of, and I guess when I say that it means something since most of my collection is filled with "huh?" type guys.  Rod Smart, due to his XFL career, is arguably the most popular of the guys I collect, but even then his NFL career was one of primarily special teams duty.  Seneca Wallace probably edges out Michael Bishop for 2nd most popular, but even then only in America since Bishop had himself quite the career in the CFL.  None of those guys are well known, but Stith here is arguably (okay not really arguably - he is) the least known of all four guys I collect.  And I started liking him sort of for that reason...go figure.  

This story takes us back to Madden 2004, the original inspiration, if you remember, for my Seneca Wallace appreciation.  As I've mentioned before, I didn't really like having a great QB, but I did like having a fast one.  So Michael Vick was skipped over, but second fastest QB Wallace became my guy.  The rest of my team, however, wasn't always about also actually was quite a random little bunch, though I'm sure most other players assemble similar teams:

FB: 70ish, good pass catching, decent run blocking
WRs: Usually one veteran in the 80s, one younger dude with good catch in the 70s, then a few low 70s/high 60s young guys with a 50 guy to be my 5th WR - I ran a lot of 5 WR sets
TEs: 60 or 70 with good catching
OL: Generally awesome, 80s and 90s
DL: Speed on the outside (think Adewale Ogunleye), strength on the inside (and generally like 50s on the inside)
OLB: 60s with speed for days
MLB: Vet with strength
CB: Top two are high 80s or low 90s vets, then a 70s young nickel back and then some 50s youngsters
FS: Woody Dantzler or Michael Stone
SS: Woody Dantzler or Michael Stone out of position (in lieu of them I'd pick Will Demps also out of position or Lawyer Milloy)
K: Someone awful like Cedric Oglesby or Jamie Rheem
P: Tom Tupa

And that was the general set up.  A few guys who were always picked, but otherwise guidelines.  At a few positions I picked awful OLB were ranked low, K too, Dantzler starts low, TE.  However, the lowest position I always picked was RB, which I didn't mention above.  That's because I always picked the worst RB...and that guy was Shyrone Stith.

He ranked in the 50s, with a speed rating in the mid 70s.  Low break tackle ability, low ball handling ability...he was basically a plodding fumble waiting to happen...and I loved it.  The way Madden 2004's sliders worked, it was fairly easy to move Seneca's rating up, or a WR's rating up, or other positions' ratings up over the course of a few seasons.  But with Stith being so slow, it was REALLY hard for me to make him better over time.  But I loved the challenge so I always picked him without fail.  In fact, if you really looked at every incarnation of my seasons in Madden 2004, I think you'd find that Stith was on the highest percentage of teams (if not 100% of them) of all players in the game (he could be tied with Corey Alston and Woody Dantzler, Seneca I did eventually trade in a season or two when he got "too good").  So Stith is a guy that virtually, I know very well.  And I've learned to make his rushing style work for me, even if sometimes it means I get that 20 carries for 33 yards type game that doesn't really cut it in the pros.

With Seneca, my virtual life fandom turned into real life fandom thanks to a few YouTube videos and a move to the Cleveland Browns.  With Stith, however, there was no ensuing NFL career.  He came out early for the 2000 NFL draft after setting a single season VT Hokie TD record, and was drafted in the 7th round by the Jaguars.  His rookie season saw 20 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown along with 33 kick returns for a 23.8 yard average.  Not bad at all, especially the returning, but the Jags let Stith go when he lost a preseason battle to Stacey Mack and he signed with the Colts that November.  And unfortunately that's pretty much where it ended, as Stith did spend two years with the Colts but only got into one game due to a knee injury that wiped out pretty much all of his 2002 season.  The knee never really got better and so Stith never really got a chance to show what he could do, and that's why the 2003 free agency version of Shyrone Stith was so bad in Madden 2004.

And that's why he ended up on my team.  Like Dantzler and Alston before him, I picked up a few cards here and there to celebrate his career back when I first got into collecting, and I actually had a few jerseys and one auto at one time.  But when I focused on Seneca those all went away in trades and sales to focus my collection.  Now I'm back at it, and only one Stith card remained in my binders...his Rookie Royalty insert from 2000 Crown Royale:
The burst of light is fun here, as is the pretty ridiculous mountainside behind foil lettering.  Very epic stuff.

Here's the back:
The Hokies were awesome in 1999, and partially thanks to Stith's 13 touchdowns, they went a perfect 11-0 in the regular season.  Of course their QB wasn't too bad either  - it was Michael Vick.  But Florida State's QB, the sprightly Chris Weinke, put on a 4 touchdown clinic in the Bowl game to send the Hokies packing 46-29.  Considering Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans both scored two touchdowns that day, it's pretty remarkable that Florida State came out on top.  Stith by the way?  An ever unappreciated 68 yards on 11 carries, all of which came before he suffered a sprained ankle and left the game.  Second fiddle to the rushing QB just like in my Madden games...well Mr. Stith you'll be appreciated in cardboard at least now.

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