Shippy spearheads stiff Alcorn defense

Published 7:50 am Friday, November 30, 2018

By Robbie Kleinmuntz
Alcorn State Sports Information

LORMAN — Historically, the Alcorn State football program selects different team captains each week for the pregame coin toss.

For the last 10 games of the regular season, however, senior defensive lineman Sterling Shippy represented the defense. The Braves went 8-2 during that stretch. It’s an honor that defensive coordinator Cedric Thornton said has been earned.

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“I always select guys who earn it during the week of practice. Needless to say, Shippy has taken ownership of being captain. He’s really the guy who helps me when I’m not around and holds everyone accountable,” Thornton said. “When I was named defensive coordinator, Shippy was the first guy to come to me and ask what he can do to help us be successful. From that very first conversation, he’s been able to do every single thing that I’ve asked him to do.”

Shippy, a 6-1, 300-pound defensive lineman, sat out his first season in 2014 and the plan was to redshirt him. That fall he suffered a pectoral injury from over-lifting and the doctors told him he couldn’t play football anymore or he wouldn’t heal properly.

Thus, Shippy left Alcorn after his freshman year and returned home to Miami, Florida to re-evaluate his career and took time off from football. He transferred to Miami-Dade Community College, where he continued his education.

“My goal was always to come back to Alcorn, but I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play,” Shippy said. “I didn’t want to give up on my dream of being a football player so I kept getting checked out by the doctors and did everything they told me to do.”

During the 2015-16 school year, Shippy lived at home and worked at a furniture store while taking classes. He helped his mother Patricia Shippy pay the bills, but did not participate in any football-related activities.

Heading into the 2016 football season, Shippy received the good news he had waited for when doctors cleared him to play. Former Alcorn defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro drove to Miami, told him he still looked like he was in good shape and told him to report to fall camp.

Pecoraro left that summer for a position at Southern Miss, and Cedric Thomas was named Alcorn’s defensive coordinator.

“Coach Thomas and Coach (Fred) McNair both welcomed me back with open arms. It felt great just being back with the guys. We are all brothers on defense,” Shippy said.

Even though Shippy was on the 2016 roster, playing time did not come easy. He did not see action in the season opener against Alabama State, but by Week 4 he was a starter.

“When I first got back, it was really tough. Nothing was ever handed to me and I had to earn every single rep, every minute, every second that I saw on the field. That actually motivated me because I knew I could be a big help to the team. I just wanted to work hard and get better after each practice and each game,” Shippy said. “I have to thank the coaches for making me earn it.”

Shippy finished the 2016 season with 39 tackles, which was sixth on the team. He continued his steady play as a redshirt junior in 2017 and was a staple on the defensive line.

This season he led the Braves to the SWAC East Division title — they’ll host Southern University in the conference championship game on Saturday afternoon — and on Thursday was picked to the All-SWAC first team.

Shippy finished the regular season with 34 tackles and ranked fifth in the conference with seven sacks. He tied for the team lead with 12 1/2 tackles for loss.

“Shippy is a really good young man and a pleasure to have on the team. He does all of the right things and leads by example by working hard, being where he’s supposed to be, not being selfish and doing all the right things,” Alcorn head coach Fred McNair said. “He’s a tremendously hard worker and puts in extra hours both in the weight room and in the classroom. Shippy is one of those guys you never have to worry about because you know he’s always doing what he’s supposed to both on and off the field. He gives it his all every day and that’s all we can ask for as coaches.”

Shippy captains an Alcorn defense that ranks sixth in the Football Championship Subdivision in total yards, allowing 283.4 per game. The defense also led the SWAC in fewest points allowed (20.6 ppg), rushing yards allowed (93.2 ypg), passing yards allowed (142.8 ypg) and sacks (45).

“Shippy is a great example to our younger players on how we’re going to work every day and on every snap so we can be the best that we can be. He does a great job of providing leadership and I’m proud of him for stepping up and being a positive influence for the group,” defensive line coach Damon Frenchers said.

Shippy said the goal for the Braves this year is nothing short of winning a SWAC Championship.

“It really would be a blessing. My brothers and I are going to fight ‘til the end, and I just feel like this is our year. We’ve worked so hard and it would be special to do it my senior year,” Shippy said. “I know I still have a lot to improve upon in my game personally, but I try to get better each week as the season goes along.”

Shippy is on pace to graduate in May 2019 with a degree in criminal justice.

“After I graduate, I would like to pursue a career as a professional football player and play at the next level. Though, if that’s not in God’s plan for me, I’d really like to be a firefighter,” Shippy said.

• Southern U. (7-3) at Alcorn State (8-3)
• Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
• TV: ESPNU; Radio: 91.7 FM