PG West: Moon's Shipley has big plans for Penn State as center of the offensive line
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He's the most tenured player playing literally at the center of one of the most experienced and proven units on the team, poised to be a fifth-year senior who hasn't missed a start since 2005.
When put in that context, is it any surprise that Moon Area High School graduate A.Q. Shipley was selected as a captain for the Penn State football team this season?
"I've always kind of seen myself as a leader on the offensive line and on the team as a whole," Shipley said while in Pittsburgh late last month.
"To be named captain, I think that makes you want to rise to a new level in terms of leadership. We'll keep doing the same things we've been doing, work hard on and off the field and then take care of some of the guys, keep them in line."
To say the leadership of Shipley transcends the offense isn't hyperbole. After all, it was during his redshirt freshman season of 2005 when this 6-foot-1, 297-pound former Moon standout played some on both sides of the line for a Lions team that finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country.
Two 9-4 campaigns followed, but Shipley is determined to help the Lions allow him to go out on top of the Big Ten.
"I'm real excited for this year," Shipley said. "It's my last year, and we have a big senior class, a great leader class. There are some great leaders in this senior class.
"We're all excited and are going for big things, going about our business of doing the things we've been doing."
Along with Shipley, wide receiver Derrick Williams was selected as a co-offensive captain. Defensive end Josh Gaines and safety Anthony Scirrotto were named defensive captains, with injured linebacker Sean Lee of Upper St. Clair an honorary captain.
If the Lions are to live up to Shipley's expectations and compete with the Ohio States and the Michigans of the conference, the offensive line figures to be a big reason why.
Already a unit that got stronger as last season progressed, each of the five starters from that group (Shipley, tackles Gerald Cadogan and Dennis Landolt and guards Rich Ohrnberger and Mike Lucian) return as seniors this season. Also, Stefen Wisniewski, a Central Catholic High School graduate and South Fayette resident, has passed Lucian on the depth chart and apparently will start this fall as a sophomore.
Shipley anchors the unit as a three-year starter and returning first-team all-conference selection. He has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi, Outland and Rimington awards, which are given to the nation's top offensive or defensive lineman, interior lineman and center, respectively.
"The offensive line should be real good," Shipley said. "I'm expecting a real good year with our top six guys coming back. We feel like we haven't missed a beat through the winter and spring ball. It should be one more good year for us seniors before we're done."
Shipley was with a couple of those seniors in Pittsburgh for a dinner at the Duquesne Club. Along with Wisniewski and coach Joe Paterno, Shipley was accompanied by Lee and senior linebacker Tyrell Sales of Butler.
All of those players are natives of Western Pennsylvania and graduated from WPIAL high schools. Each spoke of a kinship they share with their fellow Pittsburgh area natives as part of a team that has recruited players from all over the country.
"It's always fun coming back to Pittsburgh," Shipley said. "I wish I could stay longer than a weekend, but we've got class and have to head back. When we're over here, it's always fun to get home.
"It's always fun when you come to these types of things, talking about and talking up Penn State when in Pittsburgh."
First Published June 12, 2008 12:00 am