June 27, 2014
For casual observers, those in the Cotton Bowl and college football fans watching on television, things didn't look good for Jordan Shipley and his University of Texas teammates on an October 2008 Saturday afternoon.
Undefeated and ranked fifth in the nation, Shipley's Longhorns were already down by two scores to their arch rivals, the top ranked Oklahoma Sooners, in the annual Red River Rivalry grudge match in Dallas.
After surging ahead 14-3, the Sooners and head coach Bob Stoops prepared to kick off and bury Mack Brown and his Longhorns once and for all. With a record crowd of more than 92,000 looking on, Shipley made other plans as the pigskin suddenly appeared high up in the bright blue Texas sky.
Catching the football at the four-yard line, the most prolific receiver in Texas high school football history raced up the field as ABC's Brent Musburger provided the commentary.
"Returned from the five-yard line, it's Shipley … BIG HOLE! … SHIPLEY! … END ZONE AHEAD FOLKS! … TOUCHDOWN LONGHORNS!"
And just like that, Shipley and his mates were back in a game that they would eventually win by a 45-35 count.
It was win that turned a potential season crusher into the spark of a glorious gridiron run. Leaving Dallas, the 'Horns wouldn't lose again until an injury to quarterback Colt McCoy dashed their BCS National Championship hopes against Alabama.
Such is the moxie of Shipley, the art of turning lemons into lemonade, something that the 28-year-old Austin resident has made a habit of doing throughout his life and career.
Most recently, that includes turning the ashes of an NFL career-ending knee injury into a bright new blaze as one of the fresh young faces of the outdoors industry.
Outdoor Channel viewers will get to see that first hand as Shipley prepares for his debut as the co-host of Bucks of Tecomate. The show will premeire Friday, July 4, at 2:30 p.m. ET. Other air times are Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. ET.
How did Shipley get his new gig? Just like he did as a receiver in college football and the NFL, reaching out and snagging the opportunity that came his way late last year.
"I can actually thank (baseball slugger) Josh Hamilton for that," said Shipley. "Josh was supposed to come down and hunt on a show that was a tribute to Gary Schwarz's dad, Marvin.
"But Josh and his family got sick and he couldn't come. That's when Gary and David both called me and asked if I could get down there (to South Texas)."
When he got the phone call, Shipley was actually in the Texas Panhandle hunting whitetails near the Palo Duro Canyon. But it didn't take him long to say yes, pick up his wife Sunny, make the drive to Austin to drop her off, and then motor on to a ranch near Laredo along the Texas/Mexico border.
For those not familiar with the Lone Star State's vast geography, that's a drive of 655 miles and nearly 10 hours of windshield time.
For Shipley, it was as easy a drive as was his almost untouched navigation of the 96-yard series record kickoff return against the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl back in 2008.
Already familiar with the process of filming a hunting television show, thanks to the one he and Colt McCoy filmed last year for the Longhorn Network, Shipley went right to work.
A natural in front of the camera, the former wide receiver (Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars) hunted and filmed for a couple of days before driving back to Austin for a wedding.
Afterwards, he and his wife pointed the pickup truck back down Interstate 35 and headed to the South Texas brush country for what would be the birth of a new career.
"The last day we were there, Sunny killed a mid-140s buck and I killed a 160-ish buck that looks even bigger than that," said Shipley.
"That evening, David pulled me aside and told me that he was ready to start scaling back his on-air presence so that he could spend more time with his family and grandkids. He told me that he had been looking for someone else to help host the show.
"He said 'If you're ready to be done playing football ... ' at that point, I don't think I even let him finish the sentence and said 'I'm ready, sign me up!'"
While Shipley says he still loves the game, he also knew this was an opportunity he couldn't afford to pass up.
"I was already at the point where I didn't know if I could keep playing physically," he said. "I have always loved the outdoors and have ever since I was a kid fishing with my late grandfather and my grandmother. In fact, I had already looked at a couple of other options in the outdoors industry.
"But being from Texas, I already knew Gary and I also knew that Tecomate had some of the highest watched shows in the industry. So when David asked, I knew it was a great opportunity and I didn't have to think too long about that."
Since then, as Shipley trades the pursuit of gridiron glory for trophies of the antlered kind - not to mention possible Golden Moose Awards - he has been on a whirlwind ride.
But that's something that he has been accustomed to since his high school playing days at Burnet High in Texas where he became one of the nation's top collegiate recruits at wide receiver.
"After coming on board with Tecomate, I got in on as many shows as I could at the end of the filming year," said Shipley.
"I was able to do a show with Joe Thomas, a seven-time (Cleveland Browns) Pro Bowl player, and I got in on the tribute show to Marvin (Schwarz). I was also able to participate in the Texas and A&M shootout show we filmed; I was able to get a bow kill on that one.
"In fact, I got in on all of the segment shoots and was pretty much able to be in on every episode that is starting in July."
Since the final moments of filming as the 2013-14 white-tailed deer hunting season wound down, Shipley has been learning the business side of the industry.
"I'm handling sponsor relationships with the shows," said Shipley, the all-time career receptions leader at UT. "I'm doing much of the contacts, developing relationships, helping get contracts renewed, stuff like that."
The former Longhorns star wide-out was even able to be a part of a quick audible by the Tecomate team, making a last-minute visit to the SHOT Show earlier this year.
"I got to do that and meet up with a number of our sponsors," said Shipley, a two-time All-American receiver at Texas. "I love doing that kind of stuff. It's so much fun to meet people in the industry and to be able to talk about hunting and fishing."
Shipley indicates that while he continues to deeply love the gridiron game that his dad Bob still coaches at the high school level, his life is now full speed ahead in talking about hunting and fishing on television, at trade shows and with outdoor fans. Not to mention getting out in the field with a rifle, a shotgun or a bow in his hands.
And just like his thrilling kick-off return against Oklahoma, there is no looking back.
"I had a call a few days ago from a team about coming back to the NFL," said Shipley. "I talked it over with Sunny and she was saying 'We don't have to worry about that anymore.'
"How neat is that, to have a wife that would rather you be in the outdoors industry than playing in the NFL? I'm very blessed and thankful to be doing it."
Shipley remains humble, enthusiastic and very appreciative about the opportunity he has in front of him to be a part of the outdoor world that he has always cherished so much.
"It's been incredible so far this year," said Shipley, who officially retired from football on February 18 of this year, finishing his NFL career with 79 receptions and four touchdowns.
"In the outdoor industry, you rarely come across someone that is not a great person," he added. "There are so many great people with character and values. It's a lot of fun to be involved in it all."
That includes planning a busy schedule of hunting and filming activities this fall that includes hunts in Kansas, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and of course, Texas.
"I'll be in on all of the stuff that we film this year," said Shipley. "I'll probably do as many hunts as David Morris, if not more, when it is all said and done.
"It's all going to be so much fun and I can't wait. I never really got to do anything like the western stuff during my football career. It was all just local deer hunting stuff, not too far away from home because of football."
If it sounds like Shipley will barely have time to sleep, he laughs and says that is true.
"There's no shortage of things going on right now for sure," he said. "It's been one thing after another this year, but it's all good stuff. I tend to run myself ragged and I'm going to love doing that this year."
In his fledgling second career as an outdoors television show host on Outdoor Channel, Shipley has just fielded the kickoff. And now he's headed down the field with a big opportunity opening up directly in front of him.
Once again, it looks like it will be "Touchdown, Jordan Shipley!"