For former Texas Longhorns great Jordan Shipley, life is sometimes nothing more than running a perfect route down field, catching a well thrown pass, turning to the end zone and kicking in the afterburners as the crowd goes wild.
But on other days, life is more of 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 football career.
Most recently, that includes turning the ashes of a NFL career-ending knee injury into a new career as co-host of the Bucks of Tecomate and Tecomate Whitetail Nation television shows that air on the Outdoor Channel.
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 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 (Morris) 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.
That’s a drive of 655 miles — or nearly 10 hours of windshield time — if you’re keeping score at home.
For Shipley, it was as easy as his almost untouched 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl back in 2008.
Already familiar with the process of filming a hunting television show thanks to 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 with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars hunted and filmed for a couple of days before driving back to Austin for a wedding that he was a part of.
Afterwards, he and his wife pointed the pick-up truck back down Interstate 35 and headed for 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, Shipley 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 (Cleveland Browns tackle) Joe Thomas, a seven-time 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 (started this month).”
Once the deer season was over, Shipley then turned to the process of learning the business side of the outdoors world.
“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.”
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 weeks) 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.”
As he embarks on his new career path, Shipley remains humble, enthusiastic and very appreciative about the opportunity he has in front of him.
And why shouldn’t he be? Because once again, Shipley has caught the ball, has turned down field and is now heading for the end zone.
Except this time, he’s hoping to tag a big Texas “Muy Grande” buck that has a lot more than seven points.