Dec 2, 2008

Shipps kicks his way into the hearts of Flames faithful

by Adam Palmer

Freshman kicker Ben Shipps found himself visiting Liberty University not as a football recruit but as a College for a Weekender. Like many students, he visiting after hearing about Liberty from friends and alumni.

Shipps came to campus to check out the university as any other high school student would but had a hidden agenda lined up. His hidden agenda was to find himself a spot on the Liberty University football team.

Shipps grew up with two older brothers and did what every other younger brother does: looked up to them. Shipps wanted to do everything his brothers were doing, and although he was playing soccer in the seventh grade, he started playing football like his older brothers.

When Shipps played football in a local Pop Warner league, his primary position was nose guard, while kicking was just a side job.

Although he continued to play soccer, by the time he reached high school he had decided to begin his football career.

From the moment Shipps put on the pads, he fell in love with the sport. Since he was a good soccer player, the role of kicker fit him naturally. Shipps had his kicking coaches from high school contacted Liberty’s coaches to set up an unofficial visit. During a CFAW visit, he made it a point to establish a relationship with the Liberty coaching staff.

To follow up on this relationship, Shipps sent in his game tapes to the staff. These tapes highlighted Shipps’ high school career in which he had posted an almost unblemished mark in field goal and extra point attempts, even making a 60-yard field goal, while missing just one kick.

Like many other incoming freshman, Shipps moved into the dorms and figured out ways to establish himself as a student athlete.

Shipps came to Liberty as a walk-on and had to win a spot on Danny Rocco’s squad.

“I wanted to keep playing football. I just didn’t see it not in my future,” Shipps said.

After making the team, Shipps took the role as the onside kicker and went into the season thinking that was going to be his only duty.

He had a personal goal to earn a starting spot by the end of the season, but understood that his work was cut out for him playing behind Paul Young.

During the first quarter of the second game, Shipps found himself thrust into the game when Young went down with an injury.

“That is what you prepare for. I was ready for the opportunity. I just started stretching and warming (up). I knew that God had opened the door. I was sorry for Paul but those things happen in football,” said Shipps. “I didn’t have that much practice because I wasn’t getting any snaps, but God gave me the strength to come through.”

Shipps continues prove himself every game averaging 58.5 yards per kickoff and has only missed one field goal on the season due to a block.

This is not where the story ends because Shipps has a very active life outside of football, which he often spends hunting in the great outdoors, dirt biking or building jumps. He is also an avid Call of Duty fan.

“I shot an eight-point buck from about 100 yards out with my .243 and I dropped it. I hunted hard for two days for that kill, on our land in Missouri,” Shipps said. “The funny thing was that my sister on her first hunt after being in the stand for about 40 minutes shot a 10 pointer.”


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