Throughout the course of the past two years, UT sophomore WR Jordan Shipley has been described through the media in a number of ways. From being called things such as a ghost to even having his existence questioned, Shipley has seen and heard the reports, and could not help but be amused.
"I really thought it was kind of funny," Shipley laughed. "Something like that, you just have to laugh at. My friends have shown me some of those things, and we just laugh about it, so it was all in good fun."
For those in the know - the Longhorn coaches, staff and players - Shipley has been the farthest thing from a ghost. Whether in the training room, weight room or meeting room, he has been driven and committed, preparing for the day he would be able to return from two years worth of injuries.
"I still went to all the meetings when I was out," Shipley said. "It helped a lot to still get to see everything several times before I got out there. You pretty much know the coverages and know everything you're going to see. I got to work on my flexibility some during that time, and that helped a lot too. I think that was one of the reasons I kept getting hurt."
Shipley arrived at Texas as one of the top receivers in the state's high school history, setting records for both receiving yards (5,424) and receiving TDs (73) at Burnet High School. However, only days into his first training camp as a Longhorn, he tore the ACL in his left knee and his season was over, but following surgery, he went straight to work on his rehab and has been doing so ever since.
"He was one that was always in when we needed him," said head trainer Kenny Boyd. "He actually was one of those guys that was probably in more than we needed him and was always asking for extra that he could do for rehab."
As he began his return for the 2005 season, he once again faced injury in training camp. This time, it was his right hamstring, which was followed by a minor arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, and again, his season was over. With the work ethic and time he put in, no one could blame him if frustration were to have set in when he still was not back on the field.
"It was a situation where we were having to not only work with him physically, but also mentally," Boyd said. "We did things to help him stay in the game, because at that point, being two years removed from a game, he was pretty removed from football, itself. Jordan is someone that's always positive, and he always seemed to stay positive, regardless of what setback he was going through. I think that helped him in the whole process."
In fact, it was the mental part of his rehabilitation that was toughest for Shipley, but he was determined to be ready when he was physically able to return.
"You kind of lose the confidence that, when you're healthy, you don't really think twice about," Shipley described. "Once you've been out that long, it takes a while to get all of that stuff back. I feel like I'm still trying to get comfortable again. It was grueling mentally to go through all of that stuff. I think it happened for a reason, and I'm glad to have that behind me now."
It all finally came to a head in Reliant Stadium against Rice on Saturday when he caught his first touchdown pass - a 38-yard strike down the middle from Colt McCoy - which followed a 40-yard rush on a reverse earlier in the game.
"It was an unbelievable feeling to get to go out yesterday and have a couple of big plays," Shipley said. "It's just really taught me a lot of lessons on patience and I felt really blessed to be able to go out there and play Saturday."
Shipley is ready to move on, and if he is described as a ghost in the future, it might not be such a bad thing, as long as it is by opposing defensive backs.