At the center of it: Jojo Shuman was the heartbeat of the Callaway offense

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

 

Jojo Shuman has been at the center of the Callaway football team, often overshadowed by the flashy, highly-talented skill position players on the Cavaliers. Shuman, a senior, did all the dirty work for the team on both sides of the trenches.

“This time goes by so fast,” Shuman said as he thought back on his football career at Callaway. “When you are having so much fun and winning, it tends to do that.”

If you looked purely at the box score after a Callaway football game, you might not know that Shuman played. He has always played the “unglamorous” positions.

He felt most natural at center but could play anywhere the coaching staff asked him to play. The center position felt like home for him as he had two brothers to his left and two to his right. 

Wins were the only statistic that Shuman ever kept track of. He won a lot at Callaway, compiling a record of 40-11 to go along with a state championship and three region titles.

Despite the high level of success, Shuman is going to remember that seemingly mundane practices the most.

“Every day at practice with coach (Zach) Giddens because he is a character and same with coach (Robbie) Adams,” Shuman said. “I loved just spending time with all the guys.”

Callaway born and bred, Shuman arrived at Callaway High from Callaway Middle as a freshman in 2020. He thought he would have a passive role as a reserve for the entirety of the season but got thrown into the fire early into his high school career.

“My first reps on the offensive line were in the second round of the playoffs against Thomasville, and it was nerve-racking doing that as a ninth grader,” Shuman said. “I thought I was going to sit on the sidelines and root for the guys, but when they called my name, I had butterflies at first, but I went in there and got the job done.”

Often perceived as undersized, Shuman has had to prove his fair share of doubters wrong over the years. Shuman was named to one of the AA All-State teams last season as a junior, which felt like a pivotal moment for him.

“It means the world because I am undersized,” Shuman said. “It was really nice to get some recognition, and it made me feel really appreciated.”

Shuman elevated his game to new heights this season, working to improve his footwork in the offseason. He was also asked to play more on the defensive line, where he made a big impact but was left exhausted at the end of a Friday night, a feeling that he would trade anything to have back now that it is over. 

“Callaway is a name that everybody knows now,” Shuman said. “It has meant the world to me to play here the last four years. I love the guys, the coaches, everybody, and it is hard to say goodbye to it.”

Shuman put together another stellar season and could see another appearance on an all-state team in the coming weeks.

“It is bittersweet because I have been coaching him on the wrestling mat for 6-7 years, and I’ve been his position coach in football for four years,” Adams said. “Jojo is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around, and he is a real leader. Whatever he does, he puts everything he has into it.

“He makes everybody else around him, and he is a special kid to be around.”

Adames and Shuman share a bond that goes beyond just a player and coach.

“[Robbie Adams] has become a real father figure for me,” Shuman said.

With him playing such a difficult position to recruit, these sorts of accolades are a big help. Shuman believes that with his accolades and his tape, he can earn a spot on a team at a 4-year university.

Shuman is not ready to let football go yet and will likely not have to as the bruising offensive lineman prepares for the next level.

Shuman is not just dominant on the gridiron, he is also an elite wrestler. He will be one of the favorites to medal in his weight class at state this season.

“Wrestling has become my second home, and it didn’t go well when I first started in seventh grade, but I kept working at it, and now I’m ranked no. 1 in the state,” Shuman said.