SPRINGFIELD — To the athletic programs at La Salle, Kyle Shurmur has proven to be one thing: a godsend.
Heading into his second season as the starting quarterback of Drew Gordon's Explorers, Shurmur, as he was last year, will be the focal point of the perennially Philadelphia Catholic League-favorite.
Yet, as a newcomer, Shurmur has yet to hoist the hubcap after falling short to St. Joseph's Prep in the PCL championship last season.
"He was in an awkward situation,' Gordon said. "He was new to the school, the kids hadn't dealt with him a lot, I think they recognized his talent level, but if you're not around people, there's trust factors that need to be developed and nourished.'
Transferring his junior year from St. Edward High School outside Cleveland, Ohio, after dad, Pat Shurmur, got the offensive coordinator gig with Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles, son Kyle had moved from one stud football program to another. But, in coming to La Salle, he still had a lot to prove.
"Leaders don't just stand up and say ' I'm leading.' It takes time,' Gordon said.
A loss in the PCL championship spelled the end of five straight championship seasons for the Explorers. Shurmur, as a newcomer to the PCL, simply hadn't experienced the intense rivalry between La Salle and St. Joe's previously. But, in loss, he and the upcoming seniors made a pact.
"Right away all of the seniors got together and said ' we got to get this title back,' Shurmur said.
In the football offseason, Shurmur joined a team of his other passion, swimming, where as a contributor he grew as a leader.
"When he came to us, it was like he fell out of the sky,' said swim coach Frank Lichtner.
Shurmur had finished sixth in Ohio at the swimming state championships with a backstroke time of 51.69 seconds, so Lichtner knew he was getting an A-plus transfer to an already stacked team.
"He joined a team who just won two consecutive state championships,' Lichtner said. "They were all blue chip swimmers and he fit right in.'
Winning the PCL championship in the backstroke, Shurmur then contributed to two state titles in the 200-meter freestyle relay and the 200-meter medley relay, where in leading off he helped break the state record.
Yet, the experience being part of another team would prove to be invaluable to Shurmur in terms of growing as a leader, witnessed before the eyes of both Lichtner and Gordon.
"He could have come in and been the best swimmer on the team,' Lichtner said. "But, he didn't have to worry about anything, he just proved to be another one of the boys.'
In heading into the 2014 pre-season, Gordon saw a maturation in Shurmur into someone who had instead of claiming to be a leader, earned the respect of his teammates through hard work and dedication.
"I think the thing that helped him was being on the swim team,' Gordon said. "He wasn't the feature guy like he is on the football team, he was just one of a bunch of really good swimmers.'
Allegedly quite the jokester, Shurmur was great for breaking the pressure at practices. Between that and his fierce competitiveness, an exemplary student with over a 4.0 GPA, Shurmur seems to strike gold wherever he goes. Yet, he leads not in front, but side-by-side with the rest of his team.
"I just want to be a positive influence around the other guys as they continue to get better,' Shurmur said. "If you're a hard worker and play hard, the guys will follow.
"You have to be a good teammate.'
Given the opportunity to visit the Eagles practice squad, Shurmur was a ball boy and helped some of the receivers warm up before drills. Simply being on the same field as them gave Shurmur insight to being a productive asset to a team.
"Going to the Eagles practice was a huge privilege for him,' Shurmur said. "You get to see how professionals operate behind closed doors ... It was special, a blessing, I just saw myself as a bystander.'
In June, Shumur committed to Vanderbilt University, setting up the four years of his football career and beyond. Yet, the elusive PCL championship remains.
"I feel like losing last year really struck a lot of players, especially this year's seniors,' Shurmur said. "We're hungry this year.'
Throughout the spring and summer, he was back to work — weight room lifts, white board study, working with receivers, running routes. He wants the title as badly as the four-year veterans.
"His work ethic rubs off on us,' said tight end Charles Hemcher.' Because the quarterback is always the natural leader, most of the team follows what he does.'
"I was so excited to get back to work,' Shurmur said. "I was watching the Eagles, watching professionals work, watching grown men have fun playing football, and I thought ' Wow, this is my last year of high school, I want get after it, I want to play some football with my friends and get better.''
With newly found camaraderie, Shurmur aims to prove he is as advertised — a professional-level quarterback. No more a new transfer to the program, Shurmur is as much an Explorer as the rest of his squad and the leader that they need.
Also, it isn't too shabby to have a great source for Eagles tickets and some inside information.
"If something is going wrong with the Eagles, they'll come up to me and ask ' what's going on?'' Shurmur laughed. "Like, how do I know?'