Former Michigan star Patterson motivated by undrafted path to achieve NFL success
Shea Patterson took off for a run. He just kept going.
He had to clear his mind and refocus. Patterson, Michigan’s starting quarterback the last two years after transferring from Ole Miss, watched the three-day NFL Draft late last month, expecting to hear his name. But his phone never rang.
Ten of his Michigan teammates were selected in the seven-round draft and a couple others quickly signed free-agent deals. Patterson immediately posted his congratulations to all of them on his Instagram. He was especially proud of the four offensive linemen drafted, including center Cesar Ruiz, his teammate at IMG Academy, and a first-round pick.
“I was so happy for all of them,” Patterson said. “Seeing big C crying on camera, I felt like I was getting drafted. It was all cool to see.”
He was delighted for them but was baffled by his situation.
“Obviously, it wasn’t how I expected it to go,” Patterson told The Detroit News. “I had pictured myself getting picked up late Day 2, early day Day 3. But that’s just how things work sometimes.”
The next day, he needed to clear his head.
“I didn't really know what to do,” Patterson said. “I just tried to get it off my mind. I ran four, five, six miles. I ran for days.”
When Patterson was growing up in Toledo, he and his father, Sean, would often attend Michigan games at Michigan Stadium. Patterson dreamed of playing in the stadium someday, his dad often telling him bedtime stories about a little boy — "Sheaman" — who would emerge from the stands and lead the Wolverines to victory.
Patterson threw for 5,661 yards and had 45 touchdowns and 15 interceptions during his career at Michigan and was 19-7 as a starter, including 13-1 at home. He threw for 3,061 yards and 23 touchdowns against eight interceptions and was voted Most Valuable Player by his teammates last season.
He is unflappable and deals with the knocks the only way he knows.
“I just kind of fell back to what I always I've always done when stuff doesn't work the way I picture it,” he said. “I work myself back into it and just continue to work hard. And usually that's how things get better for me.”
Things got better.
He signed a free-agent deal with Kansas City on May 3. His agent, Bryan Ehrlich of Priority Athletes, told The News at the time that Patterson never complained, never felt sorry for himself.
“He wasn’t a crybaby. He’s an NFL player, and you have to be tough to be an NFL quarterback,” Ehrlich said. “He was wading through the process, I was wading through the process, and Shea stayed ready, making sure it was a good fit.
“It took a little bit longer, but now he’s got a home.”
The Chiefs won the Super Bowl in February led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP. Also in the quarterback room are former Michigan standout Chad Henne and Jordan Ta’amu, Patterson’s teammate at Ole Miss.
Patterson said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who played and coached in the NFL, was instrumental in finding his new football home.
“He was a major help,” Patterson said. “He got with my agent and called around and helped me out a lot with his contacts, and we waited for the best fit. Luckily he has a relationship with (Kansas City) coach (Andy) Reid, and I was fortunate enough to get a call. I don't think I would have gotten that call without him.”
When Patterson got the call, he was about to begin a round of golf with Ehrlich, who happens to be his brother-in-law, and older brother, Sean Jr.
“When I got drafted by the Rangers, I was on the golf course,” Patterson, laughing, said referring to being selected in the 39th round of the 2018 MLB Draft. “I was on the second tee box and they called and said, ‘Hey we’re picking you up. Welcome to the family.’ I don’t even know, I think it was like the thousandth round (of the draft). This time, it was a week after the (NFL) draft, and as soon as we got to the golf course, we got the call. It was just like the weight of the world off my shoulders.”
And how was his round?
“I played probably the best round of golf ever,” Patterson said, laughing. “I finally beat my brother in law, Bryan. I had never done that before, and he’s pretty good.”
Patterson began virtual meetings with Kansas City last week. He works out on his own in his garage, and he and his brothers, including young brother, Nick, a tight end who plans to play football at Princeton, go for hill runs on a trail near the family home in San Antonio. His brother, Sean, a three-year starting quarterback at Duquesne, runs drills with Shea while Nick is the receiver.
Kansas City is a good fit, Patterson said, and what he learned during his college career at Ole Miss and more recently under offensive coordinator Josh Gattis at Michigan last season, has helped him adjust.
“There's a lot of similarities, especially with what I ran with coach Gatt this year,” Patterson said. “Even going all the way back to my freshman and sophomore years at Ole Miss, a lot of the Air Raid and RPO terminology and just the way (Kansas City) schemes things up is very similar to what I've done in my college career.
“Going through this past week in virtual meetings, going through install 1 and install 2, I see a lot of similar concepts and a lot of similar terminologies that have been kind of easy to pick up on. And the one thing I've been focusing on is protections with the quarterback coach, coach (Mike) Kafka.
He and Ta’amu have been together in virtual meetings with Kafka, and he’s looking forward to being in the quarterback room with Mahomes and Henne, whom he has yet to meet.
“I had been going to Michigan games with my pops, and he’s the quarterback who I remember going to the Big House and watching play,” Patterson said of Henne, who started at Michigan as a freshman in 2004 and played through 2007. “So it's pretty surreal to be in that room. It’s gonna be awesome to go in there and learn and be a sponge with these guys.”
Until then, he will continue to meet virtually with his new team and is now learning all the protection calls and concepts.
“What they're telling me to do is just go out on my own on the field and take mental routes and go through the footwork, so that way I can hit Day 1 running and not have to play catch up.”
Patterson is eager to learn at the NFL level.
“Ever since I ended my college career, the goal was to win as many Super Bowls as possible, and I'm gonna go in there with the mindset to learn from a guy like Pat and enjoy an organization that just did it. Any way I could help that team chemistry and that atmosphere and help them get back to where they want to be, that's really my only goal, however that might be. I just want to go in and learn and get better every day.”
There is so much, he said, he will miss about Michigan. He loved the moments after a pregame meal spending time with his teammates and the trek to the games.
“Being right next to my guys on the way over to the Big House and watching the fans and just seeing everybody tailgating, which was what I did when I was a little kid,” Patterson said. “That's something I never took for granted. The bus rides and playing in Big House are something I'll miss.
"I miss my guys, and I wish them nothing but the best this season. I’m just excited for coach Harbaugh and the staff to get that big one at the end of the year (against Ohio State)."
He won’t forget that time, nor will he forget watching as other quarterbacks were selected in the NFL Draft. Patterson said he kept a note in his phone with the last names of the quarterbacks drafted and those who were immediately signed as free agents.
“I got that list,” Patterson said, his voice with a bit of an edge. “I got that list in the back of my head.”
And what will he do with that list?
“I'll use it,” he said. “I'll use it going forward.”
Patterson has that chip on his shoulder, and it has sparked him as he begins this next journey. He is determined to prove wrong the teams that didn't select him.
“I’m just thankful,” Patterson said. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to wake up and do what I love every day. It wasn’t about how I got there. I’m where I want to be right now. That's all I can ask for.”