By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Before Stephen Shimko ever stepped foot on Garden City's campus, he was a wanted commodity.
In 2016, Brian Schottenheimer, who is infamously known in the Sunflower State as the man who guided Blue Valley High to the 1991 5A state football title, had just taken over as the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts after serving one season coaching quarterbacks at the University of Georgia. Once he did, he made a phone call to Shimko.
"I had my chance to coach in the NFL," Shimko said two years ago. "But I wanted a chance to call plays."
Shimko was a graduate assistant under Schottenheimer at Georgia, so it was no surprise that Shimko was offered a job at the highest level. Once he turned it down, Jeff Sims came calling.
Within a few weeks, Shimko was the new offensive coordinator for Garden City Community College, a program coming off a 3-8 season.
"What we did in Garden City was so special because we turned things around," Shimko said.
Two years and one national championship later, Shimko landed a job as a quality control coach for the Seattle Seahawks under Schottenheimer, the man he turned down 24 months earlier.
"I have so many people to thank," Shimko said. "Coach Sims has been a mentor of mine, and I appreciate him giving me the opportunity. We had a lot of fun the last two years."
In two seasons under Sims, Shimko stamped his name as one of the best play callers in the country. In 2016, the Broncbusters finished 21st in total offense and 13th in rushing yards while rolling to the school's first undefeated season. A year later, Garden City racked up more than 4500 yards of total offense, ranking 12th in the country in that department, 22nd in passing yards and 11th in rushing yards. They earned a bid to a second straight bowl game and quarterback Terry Wilson was named the Jayhawk Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
"When Coach Schottenheimer got the job a couple of weeks ago, he called me and asked if wanted to work for him," Shimko explained. "I said yes, and he immediately went to work to find me a spot on his staff. But as much as I love the opportunity, I wouldn't be in this position without Coach Sims. He gave me my first coordinator job. He believed in me without ever meeting me in person."
Shimko's offensive mind was molded at Rutgers, where he was the starting quarterback for Greg Schiano. When he got to Garden City, he shaped two signal callers into Division-I transfers; first Peyton Huslig, who landed at Missouri State, and then Wilson this year, who had a multitude of Power 5 offers before inking with Kentucky. Huslig was the fairytale story, a player who didn't garner any Division-I interest after leading Andover Central to a state runner-up finish as a senior. 12 months under Sims and Shimko, and Huslig was starting for Missouri State as a sophomore.
"Seeing those guys move on is why we do this," Shimko said. "We try to touch their lives in a positive way."