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Former furniture restorer Nic Shimonek takes over at Texas Tech

Next season, quarterback Nic Shimonek is expected to take over running Texas Tech's high-powered offense.

Yet long before, Shimonek was running his own furniture restoration business out of Lubbock. If Tech’s offense goes the way Shimonek’s furniture venture did, the Red Raiders will be in business.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury calls Shimonek a “renaissance man” and “the hardest worker on our team.”

Within the football program and, previously, as college football’s version of a budding entrepreneur.

Before he worked his way to becoming the heir apparent to Patrick Mahomes, Shimonek turned an idea to help his parents defray the cost of college into a booming enterprise.

Out of Mildred High School in Corsicana, Texas, Shimonek initially signed with Iowa. After his first season, he decided to transfer to Texas Tech -- a big gamble, considering he would be surrendering his scholarship with the Hawkeyes to walk on with the Red Raiders.

“I felt like I was putting a burden on my parents, going from being on scholarship to not being on scholarship,” Shimonek said. “I wanted to do something to help my parents out.”

Walk-on or not, Shimonek couldn’t go out and get a traditional job with his time commitments to football. But he did have a special talent passed on from his mom: the craft of restoring furniture.

Tresa Shimonek started her own design studio in Corsicana a decade ago, with the idea of selling flooring and wallpaper. Yet, when people came in, they would want to buy the painted furniture that Tresa had restored as staging for her showroom.

"A table sold. That got replaced, then that sold," Tresa said. "Then people started calling, wanting to know what paint I was using. I never intended that to be part of my business, but it turned into a huge ordeal."

Soon, Tresa reconfigured the focus of her business -- now called Vintage Farmhouse Paint and Decor -- to sell furniture pieces and the chalk paint she made to use on them. Growing up, Shimonek picked up his mom’s trade, as did his high school sweetheart, Kayla Wilkie, who spent one summer working for Tresa “learning the ins and outs of making the paint,” as Kayla put it.

In May 2015, Shimonek and Kayla, now also a student at Tech, decided they would try restoring furniture, as well.

“I was just looking for a little bit of extra money so my parents wouldn't have to put money on my card for things like groceries,” Shimonek said.

Shimonek would scour Craigslist and go to furniture auctions looking for restorable dressers and Chester drawers. Between classes, he would sand the furniture. Kayla would get up before 5 a.m. and begin painting before starting her day on campus. Nic would come back to distress and wax.

“Really, any time we had to spare, we were working on it,” said Kayla, who estimated that each spent up to 15 hours a week working on furniture. “It wasn’t easy juggling school with that, especially Nic with football. He’s not just doing practice and workouts, but he’s watching film and putting in the extra time.”

But as with Tresa’s pieces, Shimonek and Kayla’s began selling like crazy.

Calling their business "The Southern Pearl," they soon rented a space at a Lubbock boutique mall to display their pieces. Before long, they needed a bigger space. Eventually, they started shipping even more furniture to Waco to sell alongside Tresa’s out of a consignment shop.

By last summer, Nic and Kayla had sold more than 100 pieces of furniture, making so much money that they had to claim taxes -- a good experience for Kayla, a finance major. They even had enough to buy their dream dog, an Italian mastiff they named Abel.

“Whether he bought groceries or paid the electrical bill, every bit he made helped us out tremendously,” Tresa said. “They’re quite the pair. He couldn’t have done it without her. She couldn’t have done it with him. Quite the little entrepreneur -- both of them.”

Last August, having earned a scholarship with the Red Raiders, Shimonek closed the business to put more focus on school and his other craft, football. That paid off in his lone meaningful action on the field, as Shimonek replaced an injured Mahomes in the second half against Kansas and torched the Jayhawks for 271 passing yards and four touchdowns.

“Obviously, Pat was one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the history of the school,” Shimonek said of Mahomes, who led the nation in passing last season. “But I’m not looking to fill anybody’s shoes. I’m just going to do what I do: go out there and try to put my team in the best position to win that I can.”

As for life after football, Shimonek, a business major, said he wants to own a construction company someday.

As is the case with furniture, "people always need houses," he said.

Shimonek's next business venture, however, can wait.

"Right now," he said, "I'm just looking forward to trying to help my team win a lot of games."