Fade route from NFL led receiver to NASCAR

He's been a Dolphin, a Buccaneer, a Raider, a Seahawk and a Jet. But the uniform Shannon Myers currently wears on Sundays bears the NAPA logo, not the NFL's.

Myers is the front tire changer for Michael Waltrip's No. 55 Toyota. It's not the career he envisioned for himself as a football star at Lenoir Rhyne College in North Carolina, but he says it's similar in many ways to the one he did dream about.

"The adrenaline rush, the competitive fire, and the teamwork aspect in NASCAR are almost identical to the NFL," said Myers, who was drafted by Don Shula's Miami Dolphins.

His first job in NASCAR was with Petty Enterprises. Don Shula and Richard Petty. If you're going to make an entrance, might as well go with legends.

Myers got into the sport through one of his former football coaches, Mark Mauldin, who was the pit crew coach at Petty Enterprises.

"When I was first approached about NASCAR, I thought of the old cliche," Mauldin said. "You know ... beer-bellied guys and all of that. But I soon found out it was anything but that. These guys are athletes, not just the drivers but the guys in the pits, too."

Myers was a wide receiver in football. When the ball was snapped, his every move had purpose, whether he was blocking or receiving. What surprised him the most about life on a pit crew was that the same dynamic applied, only more so.

"You're only as good as the guys around you," he said. "The main difference in football is you have six- or seven-second bursts of action followed by 30 to 40 seconds of rest. Here in NASCAR, it's 30 minutes or so of rest followed by 12 to 15 of the most intense seconds you can experience."

Two races ago, that intensity was even greater than usual for Myers. In seven years in NASCAR, he said his closest call came when Denny Hamlin nearly clipped him on pit road.

"Safety is always in the back of your mind on this job," he said. "One thing I learned as a wide receiver was peripheral vision. That came in handy, let me tell you. Working those tires off, putting new ones on, and watching what's going on around you the whole time ... people watching on TV don't realize just how much goes into it."

There's a saying football coaches use as much as they use time outs ... "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." Myers said this is another lesson learned on the gridiron that applies to pit road.

"Consistency is the name of the game in NASCAR," he said. "As a pit crew, you are always trying to be perfect, but you're doing it smoothly so you can do it again next time."

So what's next for Myers? Possibly Hollywood. He recently had a non-speaking role as a player in the retro football movie "Leatherheads," starring George Clooney.

While it was fun, the adrenaline rush for actors isn't quite the same. So don't look for Myers to give up his air wrench any time soon.