Air Jordan: Shipley (Finally) Ready to Soar

Injuries have put on hold the breakout season from wide receiver Jordan Shipley we've all been promised by players, coaches and scouts alike. Now healthy, the Texas speedster is ready to go and says he plans on being upright at the end of the year.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Jordan Shipley.

Rumor has it that the Texas flanker doesn't exist. Then again, rumor has it that, if you fired a handgun, Shipley could chase down the bullet and catch it. Depending on one's perspective, the prep All-American's legend either grows or diminishes with each passing season. It is to be expected when you finish your schoolboy career as a national record-holder and then, nearly three years later, still await your first collegiate snap.

"I've heard some people say there some websites saying crazy stuff about whether I exist," Shipley said. "Somebody showed me a couple of them. I think it's pretty funny."

Shipley, of course, suffered a season-ending injury (right ACL) in 2004 just as the true freshman was staking his claim to a starting assignment. Then, almost as soon as Longhorn coaches pronounced him "well", Shipley pulled a hamstring the first week of August camp in 2005.

"People think Jordan Shipley is a ghost," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said earlier this year.

Now, Shipley believes he is ready to put a scare into opposing defenses.

"I think I've come back from everything full-speed and I really feel good," Shipley said. "There are no second thoughts whatsoever. The last thing I want to do is have second thoughts. I just make sure I get warmed up and loosened up before practice starts and then it's full speed ahead."

All he did as a prepster was finish No. 2 all-time nationally for career catches (264), career yards (5,424) and career TDs (73). He also had 23 career INTs and 18 kick returns for TDs. He was also the place-kicker. But then his career was put on hold while his Longhorn teammates posted a 24-1 record, won consecutive Rose Bowl games and notched the program's fourth national championship. Shipley had surgery in September, 2004 and again in November, 2005. Part of the result was humorous jabs from squad members.

"Any time I do anything, they're always asking if I got hurt," he laughed. "If I went fishing over the weekend, they ask if I got hurt."

The injuries were uncharted territory for a ridiculously gifted athlete who had never suffered a similar setback in high school. It was quite a contrast for those moments when Shipley wondered if he would ever be healthy again.

"After a while, I could tell it was happening for a reason. I don't think I was meant to play last year. I just think whatever God wills for me will happen. I think, for whatever reason, I wasn't supposed to play. Maybe, for whatever reason, I'm supposed to be here for the next four years."

The closest Shipley has come to live-football was the annual Spring Game last April. Even then, there was a tense moment when Shipley lay motionless on the field following a collision late in the game.

"This guy's helmet hit me right in the stomach and it completely knocked the air out of me. I was just trying to get my breath back. I was trying to relax and get it back quick. I didn't want everybody to think I was hurt. It was a helpless feeling because I couldn't breathe at all."

Eventually, Shipley popped up and headed back toward the huddle. Immediately, head coach Mack Brown signaled him toward the sideline. It's an all-too-familiar setting where Shipley knows he has spent far too much of his collegiate career.

"I planning on making it through this year, fine and healthy," he vowed.

And that will be fine-and-dandy for Horns fans.

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