Where football meets friendship: a Q&A with Lehigh’s quarterback tandem

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The Brown and White sat down with Lehigh football quarterbacks Nick Shafnisky and Brad Mayes to talk about football, the evolution of their friendship, video games and more.

Senior Nick Shafnisky and sophomore Brad Mayes have split Lehigh’s eight quarterback starts this season, leading the football team to a 6-2 overall record. The duo has combined for 26 passing touchdowns this season. (Designed by Kelly McCoy)

Senior Nick Shafnisky and sophomore Brad Mayes have split Lehigh’s eight quarterback starts this season, leading the football team to a 6-2 overall record. The duo has combined for 26 passing
touchdowns this season. (Designed by Kelly McCoy)

Sophomore quarterback Brad Mayes and senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky discuss the Mountain Hawks’ performance this season. Mayes is poised to take over as starting quarterback for the team next year. (Alek Mosholt/B&W Staff)

Sophomore quarterback Brad Mayes and senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky discuss
the Mountain Hawks’ performance this season. Mayes is poised to take over as starting
quarterback for the team next year. (Alek Mosholt/B&W Staff)

Q: So Brad, how was it for you the first time you saw Nick play?

BM: The first time I saw him play was my official visit. They played Bucknell, and it was raining.

NS: That was the worst game I’ve ever had at Lehigh.

BM: (laughs) It was raining, I’ll give you that. Anyways, I think that was the first time I saw you play. We didn’t hang out, did we?

NS: No, I didn’t really spend time with him on his visit.

Q: From there, Nick, what was it like for you the first time you were able to see Brad play in uniform?

NS: What did you come in as, third string?

BM: I was second.

NS: Right away?

BM: Oh no, I actually came in as fourth.

NS: So you would have practiced a little less then.

BM: I didn’t practice at all. I wasn’t second string until the end of camp.

Q: You worked your way up through camp?

BM: Yeah.

NS: So obviously first string gets the most reps. Then second. Then third. And fourth string really doesn’t get to get in sometimes so you gotta prove yourself in individuals and non-teamwork oriented things.

Q: Brad, tell me about your first game appearance in the middle of last year. 

BM: That was against Fordham. He got hurt on a two-point play, hip flexor right?

NS: Hip pointer.

BM: I started really slow. I think the second pass I threw was an interception. But once I started understanding that it was just football and that these guys weren’t like, freaks of humans, they’re actually just people. I’ve been playing football since I was 6, so once I got that in my head it was a lot easier. I think I finished the game with two touchdowns or something.

Q: Bringing it more to present day, now — what would you say is the best football quality in each other?

BM: You wanna go?

NS: Yours is more like a cool confidence. Like, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it —  he just goes out there and balls. He studies what he has to study and knows how much he needs to know, but then when it comes to the field all of that goes to nothing and he just plays, and somehow balls out. Well, not somehow. He does his reads, does his checks but there’s sometimes when he makes some throws that may not even be in his read or might not be in the right progression or whatever. But he just knows how to make a play. He just stays cool in there.

BM: I would say that it would be his athletic ability. Obviously, I’m somewhat athletic, but there’s some things that he can do that I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why he’s the starter.” There’s some things that he does that I wouldn’t be able to do in any shape or form. I don’t think I’ve had a game over 15 rushing yards yet, and he’s had games in the hundreds. I think his athletic ability is what separates him from everybody else.

Q: And this is just for you, Brad. What do you think is the biggest thing you’ve learned from Nick?

BM: Oh, that’s easy. Leadership. Obviously I had leadership qualities coming in, but he’s just taken those qualities that I didn’t know how to use and has shown me how to use them. I’m at a point where I don’t care how old you are, if you’re not doing anything I’m going to say something. Not that I don’t care what you think about me, but the main goal when we’re playing football is to get a win. And if you’re not doing your job, I’ll say something and I think that’s a testament to Nick.

Freshman quarterback Brad Mayes prepares to throw the ball downfield at the Lehigh-Georgetown game on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Mayes has split starts with starter Nick Shafnisky this year due to injuries. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Freshman quarterback Brad Mayes prepares to throw the ball downfield at the Lehigh-Georgetown game on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Mayes has split starts with starter Nick Shafnisky this year due to injuries. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Q: This season, how has it felt for each of you with intermittent starts? You guys are like a two-headed monster at quarterback, basically. Whoever’s in, it’s working, but how are you making that happen when it’s been so back and forth?

NS: Maybe it’s defenses having to account for two completely different quarterbacks. Well not completely different, but different in the plays that we’re going to call on different downs and schemes, and whether they should put another guy on the quarterback or leave them in coverage. So I think it almost complements itself even though on some teams it might be confusing because it’s a big difference for the line every game.

Q: So you think your linemen are better at doing their job than the defenders are, at adjusting?

NS: Our line is the best in the league, hands down.

BM: The fact that they’re able to know that he’s going to leave the pocket, but I’m probably not going to so they have to hold up for longer is what separates them, that they just know how each of us play. And add that on top of everything else that they need to know. As a position group, they probably have to know just as much as us.

Q: Do you both feel responsible for the team’s success this year?

BM: Oh, yeah.

NS: Yeah, but I feel like everyone should, too. We definitely do because quarterbacks get a lot of light and obviously we’ve gotten a lot of light because of how many numbers we’ve put up, statistics. I think the school, because we’re winning, has started to come together more. Before this year, I’ve never had athletes come up to me that aren’t on the football team and say “good game” and stuff.

Q: We’re in your last year here, Nick. What are you trying to pass on to Brad?

NS: Pretty much how to take over a team – literally take it over. Not where you can just boss anyone around like a dictatorship, but spread the love to everyone on and off the field. And show him that you’re with everyone there, that everyone’s your best friend. But sometimes when someone does something they’re not supposed to do you gotta really be able to lay on them, but not in a way that breaks your relationship.

Q: On a more personal note, how would describe the evolution of your friendship from the time Brad got to Lehigh?

NS: You go.

BM: I guess when I first came in, I obviously wanted to play. He was the starter so you know, first there was some awkwardness between us. And then once he took me under his wing, second or third week, and showed that it didn’t matter that we were in the same position group — that he cared about me, was when it took it to the next level. Obviously we couldn’t hang out a lot during the season because we had a lot of homework and film to watch, but once we got into the spring we started to hang out a lot more — like 2-3 times a week. And we saw how similar we were to each other, and that’s where it took off. And now, he’s coming to visit me over winter break all the way in Florida, so it’s leaps and bounds from where it was when I first got here.

NS: (laughs) I definitely agree. There’s going to be awkward tension coming in, just because he was highly talked about. And then, I don’t remember when it was. Maybe after a game or after a win, we just realized that we’re on the same team and we’re just here to win. We just started to become comfortable and I started learning things from him even then. He would learn things from me and then when he started getting closer with the whole group in the spring we hung out all the time and each one of us brings a different personality to the table, that’s for sure.

Q: So what do you guys like to do to hang out?

BM: Uhh. We just went out and got Chipotle together.

NS: Yeah, we get Chipotle a lot.

BM: Yeah. We play a lot of video games together.

Q: What games do you play?

BM: We play Call of Duty. Zombies.

NS: I brought my Grand Theft Auto 5.

BM: You’re not that good at sports games.

NS: No, I don’t play sports games. I don’t really like ’em. I don’t like games I’m not good at.

BM: We play basketball together.

NS: And then, on top of that whether we’re going to rehab or meetings together, we’re always together in some way. You’re going to have lunch and dinner together, pretty much. Might see each other at breakfast. Then you have football practice, lifting. So whatever we’re doing we pretty much have to be together. Unfortunately.

Q: I was going to ask, you guys don’t get sick of each other?

NS: I feel like we both bring a balance to the table.

BM: There’ll be one day where he’s on top of me and then next I’ll be on top of him. Just joking around with each other and stuff.

NS: Tough skin. It’s definitely a tough skin relationship.

Q: If you had to compare your relationship to any duo in pop culture, what would it be?

NS: (laughs) I was going to say something bad, but I’m not going to.

BM: That’s a good question. What are you thinking along the lines of?

NS: I’m thinking about like superheroes and stuff. Actually, yo. Wow. Wow. Wow. Will Ferrell and that guy from Step Brothers. They were very awkward at first.

BM: I’m with that.

NS: You start realizing how many interests you guys have together and then all of a sudden… You guys hit it off and make a business together and…

BM: Sing.

Senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky stands on the sidelines during Lehigh’s game against Colgate University on Oct. 8 at Goodman Stadium. Shafnisky, along with sophomore quarterback Brad Mayes, has led the Mountain Hawks to a 6-2 overall record this season. (Erik Thomas/B&W Staff)

Senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky stands on the sidelines during Lehigh’s game against Colgate University on Oct. 8 at Goodman Stadium.
Shafnisky, along with sophomore quarterback Brad Mayes, has led the Mountain Hawks to a 6-2 overall record this season. (Erik Thomas/B&W Staff)

NS: Yeah, we do sing a lot together. We’re not good though.

BM: Speak for yourself.

Q: You got any favorite songs, locker room songs? 

NS: “Zanzibar.” For sure, “Zanzibar.” Who’s that by?

BM: Belly. But, you know, we sing some classics though too. We get on that country.

NS: True. I mean, we drove home together from the Holy Cross game with my mom, Brendan Craven and Matt Timochenko. Packed in a little tiny car.

BM: For five hours.

NS: My mom’s riding in the middle of the backseat, squashed up. And pretty much everyone’s asleep, so it was just me and him rocking out to all different kinds of music for like five hours.

Q: So with all of that aside, moving forward what’s going to be the biggest thing that you try to do to carry on Nick’s legacy after he’s gone?

BM: I think I’ll probably have to become more serious with the things I do. The quarterback is always the face of the program and right now, I’m obviously not the QB one. That’s him. This is his team. I’m often in the back, doing my thing, but next year I’m going to have to really step up and people are going to be looking at me to make decisions and see how I’m acting. Right now that’s him. So just learning from him and seeing how he operates, and when it’s OK to joke around and when I have to be serious.

Q: Does that sound right Nick?

NS: Yeah. That’s what I would like too.

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