Penn Hills grad Featherstone gains larger role at Akron
Shawn Featherstone waited for his opportunity; now he is making the most of it.
The 2014 Penn Hills graduate had made contributions to the Akron football team on all four facets of special teams.
However, after a career-ending concussion to fifth-year senior safety Zach Guiser, a Greensburg Central Catholic graduate, Featherstone assumed a larger role for the Zips (4-3, 3-0). Guiser suffered the concussion toward the end of a 41-14 loss to Iowa State on Sept. 16.
“I was ready to step it up, take his spot and fill in his big shoes,” Featherstone said. “He coached me up pretty good and is making me better with my technique. I knew I was ready when he went down.”
In the expanded role, where Featherstone is splitting series with junior Jordan George, the Penn Hills product collected a career-high 11 tackles, including seven solo, in a 22-17 loss at Troy on Sept. 23.
Heading into the season, Featherstone had a lot to learn to help himself on the field. He made a home in the film room with Guiser and learned the ins and outs of the Akron defense led by coordinator Chuck Amato.
“They wanted to grow by understanding the defense better than last year because they knew I was a good player. It was just I didn't understand the defense that well last year,” Featherstone said.
“This year, I got in the film room with Zach, and I learned the defense better, and that's why my play is more sharp.”
Featherstone, who has 29 tackles, including 19 solo, and a forced fumble this season, finished with six tackles, including three solo, in a 14-13 win at Western Michigan in MAC action Oct. 15.
Last season, Featherstone finished with 39 tackles, including 17 solo, in 12 games, with two starts at safety during his redshirt sophomore season.
In order to stay on the field, Featherstone realized he had to rely on his technique as he faced top talent in the country.
“I have grown, knowing that technique will take me a long way, because in high school you can say I'm a better athlete and I can do what I needed to do to make the pick or catch the ball,” Featherstone said.
“But now, I know everybody in college is their high school's best athletes so I need technique to make me better.”
Featherstone has made sure to give an all-out performance every time he's on the field, which is something he has done since his days at Penn Hills.
“Even when I was younger, I was always about effort, and that is all that special teams is all about. It's about giving 100 percent every chance that you get,” said Featherstone, whose younger brother, Sqy, is a sophomore defensive end for the Indians.
“Those are things that can change the game, and I know that is important because it can determine if we lose or win. I use all my energy and all my effort and go 100 percent when I'm out there.”
Andrew John is freelance writer.