INDIANAPOLIS – A.Q. Shipley entered Penn State after being a two-time captain of his prep football and basketball teams.
Shipley was used to elbowing under the boards and in the trenches, and he did not slow down at State College.
Shipley started his final 39 games at Penn State, earning Big Ten Lineman-of-the-Year honors and winning the Rimington Trophy.
After stints on the practice squads with Pittsburgh (2009) and Philadelphia (2010), he was cut by the Eagles before the 2011 season, but wound up in Indianapolis when Ryan Grigson came on as general manager in January of 2012.
A slew of moves by Grigson included signing Shipley 17 days into his tenure, but it not ensure a smooth road.
Shipley was waived after the opening game and placed on the practice squad. His response was to set his jaw, heed the advice of Chuck Pagano to grind away and remember the urgings of his father to maintain his native Pennsylvania work ethic.
Shipley returned to start five games for the Colts, playing well enough to help the team earn four of its 11 wins.
Everything for the team and Shipley now is starting over and jobs are to be won again.
"It's going well. We're learning a whole new offense again, so we're kind of in the same boat," said Shipley. "It's a new offense, so I'm attacking it the same way as always. I'm going about it. I want to start, and I'm going to play as hard as I can to do that."
Appearing in 11 games last year provided Shipley with a working knowledge of those around him on the line. Many are toiling in the third week of the off-season program.
"The comfort is good around here," said Shipley of the atmosphere. "A lot of the same guys are back. We work well together. We're in the meeting room asking the same questions, doing the same things. It's definitely more comfortable for sure.
"Joe Gilbert is a familiar face from last year, obviously. He and our new coach, Hal Hunter, are doing a great job of relaying information to us."
Shipley is seeing his second offense in two seasons, so a learning curve is involved. Also, the team selected offensive linemen – guard Hugh Thornton and center Khaled Holmes – in the third and fourth rounds of last week's draft.
A man like Shipley who has known nothing but challenges takes note and keeps his eyes on his own business.
"I've been the kind of guy who's always competed. I don't worry about that," said Shipley. "Nothing really bothers me when it comes to that aspect. I've had to fight for everything I've had. I'll continue to do that. I kind of like it that way. I like being the underdog.
"I'll continue to go and play. I know I'm going to go out and play to the best of my ability every day. I played well last year. I'm going to try and play as well as I did and better this year."
Last week, Grigson said he and Pagano want to create a "cauldron of competition" on the roster.
"If we're going to be champions, true champions like that type of environment," said Grigson. "They want the cream to rise to the top. They welcome that. We feel we have guys who have that mindset."
Had Shipley not represented that mindset, he would not have been brought to the Colts by Grigson.
Shipley says a competitor never shies from competition. If nothing else, Shipley is a competitor.
"Absolutely, absolutely," said Shipley. "I would not have made it this far without being that way."