Receiving, returning, Shipley does all for Texas
Behind the Texas receiver, 45,000 fans in burnt orange rose to their feet in unison and the roar from the crowd seemed to push him forward. Ahead of him, about 45,000 screaming Oklahoma fans gasped and went quiet by the time he reached the end zone.
The touchdown return jump-started a big Texas rally and the Longhorns rolled to a 45-35 victory over their border rivals last season. It also started Shipley on a play-making streak that is still running strong heading into Saturday's Longhorns-Sooners rematch at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
The sixth-year senior has been so good catching passes, returning kicks and coming up with game-changing plays at the most crucial time for No. 3 Texas (5-0, 2-0 Big 12), there has been some half-serious chatter about Shipley sharing some of the Heisman Trophy hype directed at his best friend and roommate, quarterback Colt McCoy.
"He just looks like an ordinary guy," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "But he's got a little mini cape that he puts on when he gets out there on the field."
The No. 20 Sooners (3-2, 1-0) have seen just about enough of Shipley's Superman routine.
In 2006, he caught a second-half touchdown pass that broke open a close game. In 2007, he caught a touchdown in a 28-21 loss.
Last year's kickoff return swung momentum after the Sooners had taken a 14-3 lead. He also caught a touchdown pass later in the game as Texas got its first regular-season win over a No. 1 team since 1963.
"Every time he touches the ball," McCoy said, "you feel like something special can happen."
Opponents haven't found a way to stop him yet this season.
His 47 catches put him on pace to smash the school single-season record of 100 set by Kwame Cavil in 1999. He's also returned two punts for touchdowns. The first, against Texas Tech, ended with a highlight moment when he was brave enough to run up to Texas' 2,000-pound steer mascot Bevo.
It was a risky move. If Bevo had been standing, Shipley could have easily been gored.
"I won't be going near Bevo again," Shipley said.
In last week's 38-14 win over Colorado, Texas trailed 14-3 before Shipley turned a Buffaloes cornerback inside out with a double move to get open for an easy 39-yard TD just before halftime.
"The (cornerback) nearly falls down," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Shipley is taking on extra duty as Texas gets into the heart of its conference schedule. Brown rested him on kickoff returns through the first four games, but he was back in that role against Colorado.
That forces the Sooners to make a tough choice Saturday: Kick to Shipley or freshman D.J. Monroe, who has two kickoff returns for TDs already this year.
"They give us a chance, every time, to score," Brown said.
Shipley shrugs off the extra work. He is used to being a football iron man.
"In high school, I never came off the field," Shipley said. "I was kicking extra points and field goals ... doing everything."
Few receivers can log the number of plays Shipley does. He was on the field for more than 80 snaps in last season's Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.
Shipley said it boils down to this: If McCoy is on the field, so is he.
He hasn't always been so durable. Knee and hamstring injuries kept him off the field in 2004 and 2005. It was a frustrating time as he watched Texas' first national title season in 36 years from the sideline.
He also had to be wary of trying to come back from the injuries before he was ready.
"It's always been a challenge for me to not do too much. Doing extra is kind of what made me what I am," Shipley said.
He could have left school after last season. He graduated in December with a degree in kinesiology and is now enrolled in a master's program. He applied to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility because he wanted a chance to win Big 12 and national titles of his own.
"The main thing is I wanted to end on a good note. I've had so much fun," Shipley said.