Shipley Ready To Make Up For Lost Time

FL Jordan Shipley said he couldn't remember if he had any drops during Monday's practice, the first of the 2005 preseason for the Texas Longhorns. Then again, a receiver "is supposed to have a short memory," he said with a grin. The comment comes almost one year from the one date the RS-freshman presumably would most like to forget.

The consensus 2003 Texas 3A Offensive Player of the Year tore his right ACL during a non-contact drill last August and was lost for the season.

"I'd never missed a game before; this is the first time I've ever had to miss anything," he said, before adding, "You hate being over there having to watch, but I had to do it. I feel like I've put in my time. Hopefully I'll be able to come out and never have to do that again. It (football) is not something you want to watch when your used to be able to play."

It's still a few weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his knee surgery, but Shipley rehabbed so zealously that he was back on the field by late February for spring drills. He was held out of contact but is now gearing up to take on DBs and all comers when the pads are strapped on later this week. It begs the question: how's the knee?

Shipley looked plenty fast playing with a brace last spring; now he is playing without the brace and, just as important, playing without fear.

"It felt fine tonight," he said. "I spent enough time in rehab that I feel like I don't have to think about it anymore."

Shipley participated in seven-on-seven drills during voluntary sessions throughout the summer. That's why Monday's practice, moved to the Indoor Practice Facility because of lightning and rain in the Austin area, was "pretty much the same thing we'd been doing all summer."

Shipley wore the brace strictly as a precautionary measure and told me he took it off shortly after the Orange-White Game last April.

"I'm not really the kind of guy who wants to wear a brace," he said. "For a receiver, it gets in the way. It came off pretty early."

Shipley observed last spring that the only thing missing from his game was the ability to stop on a dime and make short cuts in order to juke the DBs. I asked Shipley if he thought he had recovered his juke-ability, or if that jury would be out until the pads came on.

"I feel like I'm getting it back," he replied. "It feels a lot better. The spring was tough on me because I didn't feel I was 100 percent. Some of my cuts were pretty tough, but I feel like I've come a long way since then."

Coaches and teammates are optimistic that Shipley has come far enough that he has regained the form that led to Texas 3A Offensive Player of the Year honors for the former Burnet prep star. His 264 career catches for 5,424 yards is not only is a state record, it also ranks No. 2 all-time nationally. So does his 73 career touchdowns. It's gaudy stats like that (along with whispered comments from some of the UT coaches last August that Shipley was on his way to becoming a front line receiver) led many to speculate what could have been during an otherwise outstanding 11-1 season, but one in which a consistent receiving threat never materialized among the wideouts.

"I try not to focus on that," Shipley said. "I just try to go out and play. "If I can go out and help the team, so be it. I don't think you can really say we'd have been any better or worse last year. We had some great guys running the ball last year so that's what we did. I'm planning on coming in and making whatever impact I can make. We've got a lot of young guys who are looking good and improving so hopefully some of us will be able to step it up.

Head coach Mack Brown has labeled Shipley as "the most positive young man I've ever been around." As such, Shipley has found a silver lining in what was the most difficult season of his entire career.

"I got to sit through the meetings and watch all the film critiques," Shipley said, "and that definitely helps a lot to have a year to learn the offense. The college game is a little different. I feel like I have a lot better understanding of the game. You have a better feel for what the DB is going to do. It helps a lot because you feel like you've got an extra step on them."

Shipley is chomping at the bit to pick up where he left off, but Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said that coaches intend to ease Shipley back into the rotation

"We'll be smart with him," Davis said. "Any time you're coming off of a knee injury, you want to be smart especially during two-a-days. When we actually start practicing twice a day, there's a good chance that we'll hold him out during one of those practices."

The first two-a-day of August camp is set for Sunday, August 14. The team is scheduled to practice 6:45 p.m., Tuesday, at Denius Field.

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