Three moments with Will Shipley.
1. At a camp in South Carolina, he stood out. It was a hot day in June. He’d already caught some attention on the recruiting trail, running a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash at Georgia.
He certainly seemed to have the attention of Gamecocks then-running backs coach Bobby Bentley. The USC assistant took a little extra time with the rising sophomore tailback from North Carolina. He ran some extra routes, did some work as a slot receiver.
And before he left, he got a little time with head coach Will Muschamp. He left with an offer and a lot of warm feelings.
“I love all them,” Shipley said. “We have really good relationships, especially me and coach Bentley.”
2. It’s a chilly night in Weddington High School’s home stadium on the first weekend of the state playoffs. Shipley won’t play much.
His Warriors squad is facing off against Central Cabarrus and Gamecocks linebacker commit Derek Boykins, and the hosts have more firepower. The Vikings offense can’t get going, and Weddington keeps blocking punts and scoring.
By the end of the first quarter, it’s 21-0, and it’s 45-0 at halftime. Shipley only touches the ball three times, not counting a touchdown that was called back. Beyond a receiving score, he has a couple plays on defense, a hurry and a tackle for loss from the safety spot.
Arguably Shipley’s biggest moment comes when he races onto the field to congratulate his brother James on a punt return score, earning an excessive celebration penalty.
It turned out to be the first step to a state title.
3. It’s less than two weeks after Shipley helped his team to its second title. He’d averaged 139.3 yards from scrimmage with nine total touchdowns in four playoff games.
He’s standing on the track at Charlotte Latin High School’s football field, watching South Carolina practice for the Belk Bowl. The Gamecocks are practicing a mere 7 miles from his high school, but the coaches can’t actually talk to him because of NCAA rules.
They can, however, chat with Andy Capone, Shipley’s coach. Bentley comes over to him as South Carolina’s players warm up. Soon enough, the college coach leads Capone onto the field, over to Muschamp for a chat. Pat Washington, the then-area recruiter, also gets in a few words with Capone before practice begins.
At the moment, Shipley has two more seasons of high school ball. He’s a four-sport athlete, even playing lacrosse. He’s got plenty of time to go through the recruiting process.
But he’s also considered a four-star prospect and the No. 36 player in his class by 247 Sports. And the Gamecocks, who need to add or develop a top running back sooner rather than later, are after him.
“I’m definitely considering everything,” Shipley said. “South Carolina is really cool because it’s close to home.”
He’s coming off a season in which he ran for 1,417 yards, added 393 through the air, scored 25 touchdowns, and for good measure added 49 tackles, a pair of interceptions and eight pass break-ups on defense.
That’s after posting 662 rushing yards, 423 receiving and 13 scores as a freshman.
Capone had heard the rumblings about James Shipley’s brother since well before he got to Weddington. The longtime Warriors assistant, who took over the program a year ago, learned they were true.
“Great football player, even better kid,” Capone said. “He’s the type of kid you want to bring home to mom and all that good kind of stuff. Incredible work ethic. He’s one of the hardest workers in the weight room. That bodes well for what we do and what we are. As a football, player, he’s just getting started. He’s got incredible speed, good hands, great vision and just the want-to attitude.”
Will Shipley had a good model to follow in his brother James. The elder Shipley was a top receiver, ace returner and strong ballhawk for the school’s 2016 state title team. He had more than 750 receiving yards as a senior, scored five return touchdowns, broke up 17 passed on defense and will play lacrosse at Penn next year.
Like his brother, Will Shipley is a two-way player, and although his future is likely offense, he’s learned a little something from the other side.
“Coming down and having to make those hits, it gives me really a second view on things,” Will Shipley said. “When I’m at running back, I kind of know what the safety is going to do.”
It also gave him a little something to talk to Muschamp about.
“Coach Muschamp asked if I’d be interested in playing safety,” Will Shipley said. “I think he was just really asking me to see if I wanted to. But I worked with coach Bentley (at running back). I even got to play some receiver, some slot.”
With his quickness and speed, that could be a future position, but it also could just be an extra dimension of his game.
With offers from Duke, Virginia and a slew of North Carolina schools, he’s proved himself capable of carrying the load in high school, and added 20 pounds in the past few years.
“He’s 194 pounds right now as a sophomore,” Capone said. “So he’ll get up to 205, 210. I think he’ll be strong enough to run between the tackles, but he’s just so versatile to where you can split him out to receiver. Whatever you ask him to do, he’s going to do 100 percent.”
The coach also praised his leadership, something he naturally took to.
Will Shipley and his family were up for South Carolina’s game with Georgia and left impressed. He’s still got a long way to go in his recruitment and his high school career, but South Carolina’s coaches made their early impression, and it seems to be sticking.
“I love them,” Shipley said. “I went up there, it was a really friendly environment. I talked to them. They’re really nice to my family. My mom went up the camp with me, she talked to them a lot.”