Injuries, adversity forged Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough ahead of showdown with former team

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LUBBOCK – Tyler Shough admits to knowing nothing about West Texas or Texas Tech when he transferred from Oregon prior to the start of the 2021 season. He only planned on staying in Lubbock for one season before entering the NFL draft. 

But plans rarely cooperate, especially in college football. Shough learned that the hard way, battling back from consecutive shoulder surgeries to win the starting quarterback job for the 2023 season – his third with the Red Raiders. His career comes full circle in Week 2 when his new team – Texas Tech – hosts his old squad – Oregon – in a battle between two Top 25 teams. 

And he has no problem picking a side. 

“I’ve fallen in love with the blue-collar work ethic and West Texas Tough mentality,” Shough said. “The people here are so nice, the food is amazing, and it is a great college town. I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot than here with this coaching staff.” 

Shough met adversity early in his college voyage. He redshirted in 2018 assuming the starting quarterback job would be an open competition heading into 2019 only for those plans to change when Justin Herbert returned for another season. More adversity was thrown his way when the Ducks hired Joe Moorhead to replace the departing Marcus Arroyo as offensive coordinator – the man who recruited Shough to Oregon out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz. 

The former four-star recruit and national Top 100 prospect won the job anyway and led the Ducks to a Pac-12 title in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which only included seven games with one a win over USC in the conference title game and another a loss to Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl. 

“That was a really tough time because we had no spring ball or summer and barely any fall camp because the Pac-12 didn’t decide to play until late,” Shough said. “I wanted a fresh start after that season; a place that I could compete for a starting spot with a coaching staff that I had a great relationship with.” 

Shough thought he found that in Texas Tech. Everything went to plan early on. He won the starting job in Sonny Cumbie’s offense and led the Red Raiders to a 3-0 start in 2021 with victories over Houston, SFA, and FIU. The adversity struck in Week 4 when Shough broke his collarbone in a 35-point loss to Texas. Head coach Matt Wells never recovered, and Joey McGuire was hired before the end of the season. 

“I came here to work with Cumbie and the rest of that staff, so it was like, ‘What do I do now?’” Shough remembered. “You end up putting a lot of faith into yourself. When Coach McGuire and Kittley got here, I just asked for a chance to prove myself. I went out there and earned it.” 

Shough earned the starting job again to start 2022, this time for McGuire and offensive coordinator Zach Kittley. He was ready to prove to NFL scouts that he’s a future Sunday player. He beat out quality competition in Donovan Smith, now the starter at Houston, and Behren Morton, who everyone in Lubbock swears is a future star. Momentum was building in West Texas thanks to the energetic McGuire, and Shough was poised for a breakout campaign. 

And then some more adversity struck. Shough hurt his shoulder again, this time in the season opener against Murray State. He admitted to contemplating a medical retirement from football after the injury. 

“I didn’t want to play the sport, or even be alive in some of those moments,” Shough said of the aftermath of his second shoulder injury in as many seasons. “I felt like I had done everything to that point to go out there and play well.” 

Shough shucked those thoughts thanks to his support system and began working his back from injury. The road was hard, even if it was familiar. He made it back for appearances against Baylor and TCU but he had lost his starting job in the process to Morton. It was another blow for Shough, who by then was playing with a chip on his shoulder the size of a Dorito. 

Even winning his job back didn’t wash down the taste. Shough returned as the starter in a Week 10 win over Kansas. He led the Red Raiders to victories over Iowa State and then Oklahoma to close out the regular season and give Texas Tech its first winning record in the Big 12 since 2009. When asked about the doubters, Shough said that even some coaches on the team gave up on him and that he’d knew they’d be proven wrong. He was right, but he looks back on that press conference and laughs because he took a page out of Michael Jordan’s playbook in terms of manufacturing disrespect for motivation. 

“I wanted to trick my brain and put that chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It was a heat of the moment thing at a time. I was playing pissed off and I needed that fuel, even if it was in my head.” 

Shough won’t need to manufacture motivation for Week 2. His two college football worlds collide at AT&T Jones Stadium on Saturday night when the Ducks come to town for one of the premier national games in a loaded docket. It’s a game he never thought he’d play because it was too far out on the schedule. 

“Adversity happens and things shake out the way they’re supposed to, so it was meant to be,” Shough said. “I’m so happy that things worked out the way things did even though there was so much pain and adversity.”


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