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Rashid Shaheed’s record 7 kick return TDs a product of speed, belief and teamwork at Weber State

By Brett Hein - | Nov 4, 2021

Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

Weber State receiver Rashid Shaheed holds up seven fingers after returning his seventh career kickoff for a touchdown Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, against Idaho State at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho, setting a new all-time FCS record for such kick returns.

OGDEN — When Weber State senior Rashid Shaheed reached the end zone Saturday at Idaho State to cap a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown, he turned to his arriving teammates and held up seven fingers.

Oh, he knew he made history, marking himself down as an all-time great in one of the most exciting facets of college football.

The score was his seventh career kick return for a touchdown, setting a new FCS record for the feat.

“Going into every single week, ever since I’ve had the opportunity to break the FCS record, the coaches have been harping on us on special teams to get that No. 7 and to be a part of history. All 11 guys on the unit have been practicing hard and they want to see me break the record,” Shaheed said this week. “They helped me get there. I owe a lot to them. They lay their body on the line each and every Saturday just so I can do what I do. And it paid off.

“Of course I did have the number in the back of my head while running down the sideline last week. It felt good to break it, and to break it with those guys, it meant a lot more.”

Shaheed and head coach Jay Hill described what it takes to set such a record.

First, obviously, is speed. Second, Shaheed says he knows its going to be his job to make someone miss. And third, his ability in those areas gives his teammates the belief that if they just do their jobs, it could be a game-changing house call.

That’s how it happened Saturday at Idaho State. Weber was in control but saw the score cut to 20-17 after a pick-six interception. And then, Shaheed’s speed.

“He’s got a great feel for what the returns look like — when to cut back, when not to cut back, when to bounce. He’s been so successful throughout his career that now the blockers and the guys who are with him just believe like hey, if we just give this guy a chance, just give him a little bit of a crease, he’s got a chance to take any of them back for touchdowns,” Hill said. “He’s just that dynamic guy that if you give him a little bit of a crease, he can take it. I think it’s both his ability, and also what he does to elevate the belief in the other guys.”

Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics Weber State receiver Rashid Shaheed, right, runs up the sideline as teammate Jack Kelly blocks on his way to a kick-return touchdown against Idaho State on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.

It also tied Shaheed with four FBS kick returners who tallied seven career touchdowns. If he can manage one more score down the stretch of his final college campaign, he’ll stand alone as the most lethal scoring threat in the kick return game in Division I football history.

He knows opportunities will be rare as teams do all they can not to kick to him. He says he’s studied Devin Hester — “the greatest to ever do it” — and works with his teammates to practice scenarios against squibs, pooch kicks and other “funky stuff” so if opponents would rather give up bad field position than kick to Shaheed, WSU will be ready.

Though Shaheed’s speed and feel for the return game are key, his teammates matter.

“I think if you go back through them and look at the seven kick returns for touchdowns … I think there’s one or two of those guys on every one of those clips who is just showing extraordinary effort and, like I said before, belief that if they can just sustain a block and do what they’re supposed to do, that every time he touches it, he’s got a chance to go,” Hill said.

So, let’s look through all seven of them.

No. 1 vs. Southern Utah, Oct. 14, 2017: Shaheed takes the kick 2 yards deep in the end zone. Auston Tesch and Brady May ward off attackers early as Shaheed fights off brief contact and cuts at the 10, cuts again at the 25, then turns up the right sideline as Ty MacPherson does his darndest to keep up and get in somebody’s way as the goal line approaches.

No. 2 at Portland State, Nov. 11, 2017: Shaheed catches the kick full speed at the 11 and is off to the races up the left sideline. The crease is there from the beginning, but he staggers at the 50 to avoid a diving tackler. Brady May hits the turbo button and runs interference for one last would-be tackler at the 20 and Shaheed’s headed to the end zone.

No. 3 vs. Northern Colorado, Sept. 22, 2018: Shaheed catches it at the goal line in the center of the field and the entire unit executes to perfection. He loops to the right sideline where there are three blockers creating wall. Shaheed hits it at the perfect time and bursts up the sideline, then veers slightly toward the middle of the field as he burns past everyone, throwing up the deuces at the 25 because he’s completely unbothered on his way to six.

No. 4 at Idaho State, Nov. 17, 2018: Shaheed fields a very short kick at the right sideline approaching the 20. As Brady May and Auston Tesch look for guys to hit — nobody’s there up the middle, already a good sign — Cameron Hansen and Conner Mortensen scrap to Shaheed’s right and make blocks. From there, Shaheed angles to the left sideline and a last-ditch dive by the kicker near the 15 stands no chance.

No. X at San Diego State, Aug. 31, 2019: In a slugfest the internet has since begun describing as a Sickos football game, SDSU goes up 3-0 late in the first half. Shaheed returns the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown in what would’ve ultimately given WSU a 7-6 win and put Shaheed farther down record road, but it’s called back for a hold that was not identifiable live or on replay. No highlight package on YouTube includes this negated kick return. Even a video that purports to be a full video replay of the game noticeably cuts to the halftime studio show after SDSU’s field goal goes through the uprights, skipping over the final 4 minutes and 41 seconds of the first half.

No. 5 vs. Northern Arizona, March 27, 2021: Shaheed catches the ball at the goal line and heads left, faking a handoff to Josh Davis at the 6. As he nears the 20, Keoni Larsen has run from right hash to left hash and is driving a Lumberjack toward the sideline. Shaheed skirts by on Larsen’s right, then hits the sideline full speed, dismissing a diving tackler at the 50 with his right arm, beating an NAU cover guy who appears to have an angle at the 40, and throwing up deuces at the 10 as blockers behind him start celebrating.

No. 6 at Utah, Sept. 2, 2021: Shaheed catches the kick at the goal line midway between the right hash and right sideline. As he begins to veer left at the 8, Winston Reid has sent a Utah cover guy flying on the left hash at the 20. As Reid sees Shaheed quickly approaching and pivots to turn upfield, Clay Moss and Aaron Sessions combine to crack a gunner directly ahead of Shaheed, who passes to their right into the seam they’ve created with Logan Snyder to the left, who has sealed off a contain man outside the hashes at the 21. From there, Shaheed burns downfield as Reid does his best to run interference on the Utah kicker, who has no real chance at catching Shaheed as he angles to the left pylon.

No. 7 at Idaho State, Oct. 30, 2021: Shaheed takes the ball at the 2 past the right hash. As he turns and angles left at the 10, Haze Hadley wards off an outside attacker as Winston Reid and Justin Malone put a Bengal flat on his back at the 19. Shaheed scoots in right behind them, just bursting past a diving tackler who unceremoniously flails to the turf with Shaheed outside his grasp. Jack Kelly is upfield and puts his pads into a guy at the 37, then keeps that tackler away for another 20 yards before Shaheed has outrun them all. When he reaches the end zone, he turns to Kelly and Logan Snyder, the first teammates to meet him in the end zone, and holds up seven fingers.

Shaheed’s lesson for others in his record-setting exploits?

“I would try to teach patience. Let your blockers do what they’re coached to do and then follow them, and trust in them. That’s the biggest key, just having faith in the guys around you,” he said. “And when you see the hole, just hit it. Don’t be afraid, you can’t have fear on kick return because there’s 11 guys flying at you trying to hit you, so you just have to do your best not to hit them.”

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