At Weddington High School in Matthews, N.C., Will Shipley was the big man on campus. He rushed for 4,173 yards on 503 carries (8.3 yards per rush) in his three-year high school career and scored 80 touchdowns.
Shipley also caught 84 passes and averaged 16.8 yards per reception. Off the field, he was one of the guys the young players looked up to, as he tried to set a good example.
However, those dynamics changed for Shipley once he enrolled at Clemson this past January. All of a sudden, the former 5-star running back was no longer the big man on campus. Now he is a freshman in a national championship program that is loaded with Will Shipleys at every position.
All of sudden, Shipley was just a regular guy.
“Going from a high school team like Weddington, where I was the main leader on the team to a place like Clemson that has a bunch of All-Americans on the field and off the field, I really had to try and find my spot,” Shipley said last week as part of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame panel. “I think that is kind of a metaphor for life. You always have to find your spot and where you can contribute the most.”
Throw in the fact Shipley did not get to play his senior season of high school football made it even harder. The freshman had to forgo his senior year at Weddington because of COVID-19 issues. The state of North Carolina moved the high school football season to the spring. Shipley, obviously, enrolled at Clemson to start his college football career.
“These past couple of months have really shown me that me and my family made the best possible decision that I really could, COVID or not,” he said. “God led me to this path, and I am very thankful for it.”
This past spring, Shipley held his own at Clemson. He, along with fellow freshman Phil Mafah, made big strides at running back and put themselves in position to help the Tigers this coming season. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said both were prepared physically and mentally … a first for him he said.
Shipley says he was just doing his best.
“To handle academics and athletics, it is tough,” the high school All-American said. “But if you have confidence in yourself and you use the people around you, it makes it ten times easier. So, just never be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Find your spot and you will thrive in that.”
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