In the latest issue of Inside Texas magazine, there is a hometown feature on wide receiver Jordan Shipley. It's a transcript of a short interview I did with Shipley about Burnet, where he went to high school, and also about the other two towns he lived in while growing up, Rotan and Abilene.
During the interview, I asked him what it was like to play along side such talented players at the high school level. This was because, before Shipley's arrival, there had only been one division-I football player in the history of Burnet High School football. In contrast, five players off of Burnet's consecutive state-finalist teams signed scholarships with D-1 programs (Shipley, Texas A&M starting QB Stephen McGee, Georgia Tech offensive tackle Eddie Parker, Arizona offensive guard Eddie Rollman, Arkansas TE Mason Templeton). In addition, he mentioned that a significant number of players also went on to play football for smaller colleges and universities.
So, I went about the task of locating these guys so I could list them in the article. I called up former Burnet defensive end Mark Manning, who is currently starting at DE for Mary Hardin-Baylor up the road in Belton, and asked if he could let me know which players from Shipley's team were still playing college football today. He obliged and then I talked with him a little more about playing football with Shipley in high school (and also about how they almost killed themselves because they thought it would be a great idea to tie a parasail to the back of a pickup truck...apparently it was quite a blast).
"He's amazing. I never saw him drop a football," said Manning.
I commented that he is an impressive player and that in any of the Burnet High School games I saw, I never saw him drop one. At this point Manning interrupted me.
"No," he said. "In three years of playing with that guy, I've never even seen him drop one in practice."
Not a single drop in practice? No way. Seriously? Ok, ok, Manning is a defensive end and wasn't watching Shipley every single rep. But still, this warranted some investigation.
That week, after a press conference, I started off-handedly asking various sports information directors, trainers and assistants if they had ever seen Jordan Shipley drop a football during practice.
None. Not a one of them had seen him drop one. I talked to Longhorns Coach Charlie Craven, who's in charge of rehabilitating injured athletes. Obviously, he's worked very closely with Shipley over the past couple of seasons. Surely, he's seen the young wide receiver miss one, at least one!
As I sat in the press box before the fall scrimmage, the Longhorns' last public practice before the season, I watched the wide receivers warm-up. Montre Webber and Josh Marshall, a couple of true freshmen, had their troubles, missing a couple of passes, but Shipley? Not a drop.
Ok, at this point it's getting ridiculous. I needed to talk to Shipley himself about this. That next week I talked with him after practice about a variety of topics, including his childhood friendship with QB Colt McCoy, and I asked him, "Hey, when was the last time you dropped a football?"
Shipley stared at me for a second, then looked off in the distance, thoughtful, before answering: "...I know I've dropped one, but...I can't remember."
Well of course he's dropped one. The law of averages dictates that he must have, but for some...reason...I could not find a single person who's ever seen it.
Now this story is starting to become something. Ok, first I need to talk to Texas wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. He watches the wideouts work their routes every single practice. If Shipley's dropped a ball in his tenure at the University of Texas, Kennedy has seen it.
If, for some bizarre reason, Kennedy has never seen him drop a football, we're going to have to go back further and talk to Burnet High School head coach, and Jordan Shipley's father, Bob Shipley. He's watched his son work in every single high school practice and even before that. Are we going to have to go back to his junior high and Pop Warner days to find this elusive dropped pass?
At this point, it was really starting to turn into a story. "The Quest for the Dropped Football"…yeah, that sounds good. That's Pulitzer material right there.
I needed to get started on this story, but first I've got to go see the Longhorns take on North Texas in the opener.
(Thud) Ooo…well, he was laying out for a tip, so it doesn't really count as a drop right?
Actually, I gave Clendon Ross a call the moment Shipley dropped the first ball. Clendon, who was aware of the piece I was working on, answered the phone with: "He dropped it."
"Yup, there goes that story," I responded.
Oh well, maybe I can still string something together, I thought. He only sort of dropped it.
Then Shipley gift-wrapped an interception for UNT's Antoine Bush by dropping the ball right into the Mean Green DB's hands.
I suppose now if I want to talk to somebody who's seen Jordan Shipley drop a football, I need only ask any one of the 85,000 fans who went to the North Texas game.
Well, so much for that.
Inside Texas Blog: Scattershooting
By Pat Culpepper
Special to Inside Texas
Sep 6, 2006
1. We Texans love anything that is the "biggest" and the Godzillatron in the South endzone should start a facility war all its own among D-I football powers!
2. I like the stands full of Texas fans in the South endzone and look forward to the day the North endzone turns Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium into a 90,000-plus monster.
3. Selvin Young has at last become a good -- but not great -- running back. I can no longer refer to him as "2-9 Selvin."
4. Jamaal Charles was kept under wraps, meaning the Longhorns did not get him a screen pass or swing pass to put him in the open field. Smart.
5. Coach Mac McWhorter is whipping another top offensive line into shape.
7. I liked the kickoff coverage team and the new, left-footed punter Greg Johnson.
8. Linebacker Rod Muckelroy needs to be on the field; he is big and can make plays.
9. Texas misses Drew Kelson's speed on the outside. Remember, he covered Reggie Bush step for step in the Rose Bowl and is a great impact blitz linebacker from the corner.
10. Brian Orakpo has improved and will help at defensive end.
14. Coach Duane Akina did well by not taking college football's best safety man Michael Griffin out of centerfield.
15. Cornerback Aaron Ross is an old-fashioned warrior -- returning punts, cutting down runners and playing excellent coverage football.
Concerns from the North Texas game:
1. Colt McCoy's arm. At least two throws would have been picks by a top notch D-I team and he is not a threat running the ball against a legitimate D-I defense (like Ohio State). He will get hit and fumble in a big game this season is he doesn't improve. Perhaps he is another Major Applewhite, but only time will tell. I could be wrong but I think Jevan Snead might have to come into the Ohio State game to try to rescue a win. (See my Ohio State preview and prediction by clicking here.)
2. The low snaps from back-up center Dallas Griffin. When the Longhorns were in the shotgun formation, the low snaps destroyed the timing of the offense. It must not happen this weekend should he have to play.
3. The invisible TE position. I am guessing Texas deliberately did not throw to tight ends Neale Tweedie or Jermichael Finley for a reason (perhaps the same reason Charles was under wraps). The Longhorns have to get them involved Saturday night.