You probably perused the box scores in the paper when you were a kid. You likely go online to check the stats now. Knowing the stats of your favorite football players and teams have always been a part of the fan experience.
Compiling statistics in any sport is a tireless and thankless job that has to be done with the utmost accuracy. You can be sure if Iowa State is hosting the event, the final official statistic sheet will be one of the most important documents disseminated.
That’s because Steve Shuey is holding the binoculars from the second level of the press tower.
Shuey took his familiar spot in the press box on Saturday for the 36th season in a row as a member of the ISU stat crew, calling the plays in a prompt, accurate manner.
Since 1979, Shuey has calculated stats for Iowa State football and men’s basketball teams. His service in the ISU football press box spans five decades and ranks as the 22nd-longest current streak in FBS.
Shuey watches a different game than the casual fan. He can’t get caught up in the excitement or disappointment of events during a game. His concentration level must be at its peak.
But don’t underestimate Shuey’s love and passion for ISU athletics. It’s what brings him back every season.
“That is basically why I do this,” said Shuey. “I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the glory. I want to do it because I love Iowa State University. I want to give back to the university. The people I’ve been involved with have just been great, second to none. The ISU Athletics Communications staff has always treated me very fair. I’ve just met a lot of great people in doing it.”
You can basically say Shuey has seen it all. He’s only missed five home football games in his long tenure on the crew. Do you remember Troy Davis’ school-record 378-yard rushing game vs. Missouri in 1996? Shuey was the guy tallying each yard and carry the All-American made that day.
Do you recall Chris Moore’s 27-tackle game vs. Oklahoma in 1986? Shuey does. He made sure Moore was credited with every stop that day.
He has a lot of fond memories calling games.
“The Oklahoma State game (2011) ranks right up there,” Shuey said. “Everybody knows what a big win that was for us. Even though I’m watching and statting the game, I’m excited for Iowa State when they win those types of games. The Iowa game that same year was also pretty special. Those were great games. You have to maintain your focus on those types of games. Those are the type of games you really have to maintain and really dig deep inside of you to make sure you stay concentrated.”
Shuey cherished every moment covering the exploits of All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up running back Davis. With each record-breaking yard the Cyclone legend racked up, Shuey was the one recording it.
“I took a lot of pride in watching Troy,” Shuey said. “I would read in the paper the next day that he ran 20 times for X amount of yards. I called that. I called every yard. A lot of people don’t understand that Troy may have only have gained six inches on a carry, but if it moved to the other side of the line, he got credited for a yard. You think back over time – how many of those did he actually have? I know he did have some of those. Those are very crucial. He was a special talent.”
Shuey got his start in the stat racket when his father, Ken, asked him to join the crew when they were shorthanded one game. Ken Shuey began keeping stats for Cyclone football in the 1950s. Steve tagged along with his father for many of those early seasons and noticed he possessed the same passion.
Ken stepped down as the leader of the stat crew in 1998 and Steve took over.
Like in most professions, technology has changed the way people perform their tasks. When Shuey first started, stats were all calculated by hand and then added up on a final sheet of paper. Now it’s all done through a computer software program.
“Definitely with the computer, everything has gotten a lot easier for us,” said Shuey. “The computer has helped everything out. When we did it manually we had a person keeping each team. We had one guy making chicken scratches and adding numbers. Everything had to be added up at the end of the game. What we can kick out now in about two minutes took us probably 45 minutes to an hour when we did it by hand.”
Shuey’s staff also used to have to compile averages postgame. Not anymore.
“Now when you enter plays into the computer it automatically tells you that number 10 had X amount of passes for X amount of yards,” Shuey said. “Back in the day, we had a tally sheet that we formed over the years where you put down the number of yards for a running total so we could keep track of it. Now, you enter it in the computer and it gives the average.”
Shuey will call each play how he sees it to his partner, Rich Pope, who types Shuey’s signals into the computer. Both have to be well-versed with the rules of college football. Sometimes coaching staffs won’t agree with the final box score, but Shuey is usually correct.
“I remember the Texas Tech game in 2002 when Kliff Kingsbury was breaking all of the passing records,” Shuey said. “Their offense ran a lot of short backward passes. According to the statistic manual, a backward pass is considered a rush and not a pass attempt. We had nine or 10 in question and Tech called us on it. We went back and looked at the film and we had made the correct calls.”
Shuey doesn’t have a lot rituals, but he likes to good night sleep before the game. His job his tense and needs much attention to detail.
He watches each play closely. Falling behind is not an option.
“You learn over the years that you do not cheer outside, you cheer inside your body,” Shuey said. “You have to stay and commit yourself to being focused 100 percent of the time. You just can’t take a down off and you can’t afford to fall behind, or you won’t be able to catch up.”
Shuey has perfected his craft through the years. Many box scores compiled after games are filled with errors. Though Shuey and his crew would be the first to tell you they aren’t perfect, they no doubt rank as one of the best stat crews in the business. There is no argument.
Shuey’s reputation is so impeccable his services are often requested by outside entities to serve as a statistician. He’s worked at numerous Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championships as the lead statistician.
Joni Lehmann, the Big 12’s Associate Director of Communications, understands the importance of an excellent stat crew.
“Steve has been a valuable asset to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship for many years as a member of the Iowa State stat crew,” Lehmann said. “He is extremely efficient and takes pride in making sure everything is accurate. If there are ever any issues, I don’t hear about them as Steve and the rest of the crew take care of getting them corrected on their own.”
Shuey, who is employed at Munn Lumber for his day job, works the games strictly as a volunteer. His only compensation is season tickets for his family.
This is all fine with Shuey. He feels lucky to have the opportunity to serve the school he loves.
“I’m very honored to be a member of ISU’s stat crew,” said Shuey. “I just really love doing it.”