Questions and Answers with Colts center A.Q. Shipley.
Question: You're in the NFL now, the latest step in a lifelong dream. But when did it begin? When did you first start playing football?
Answer: "Probably seventh grade, well I started playing earlier but then they had weight limits. So I had to stop playing for a couple years and got back into it like seventh or eighth grade, something like that. I got big quick and I thought football could be a path to take. My sophomore year, I started getting offers and went from there."
Q: What do you remember about your first team?
A: "Just going back to my community, the guys I grew up with, playing with those guys all the way up through high school. It was pretty cool. It was a lot like college, you play with the same group of guys for a couple years and then hopefully stick on the team and play with the same group of guys."
Q: To get to this level, it has to be about more than money, or fame – the things a lot of people associate with the NFL. What do you love about the game that has kept you playing?
A: "I think just the willingness to compete. I think competition brings out the best in a lot of people. I mean it's a whole different animal. I think that ability to compete, that ability to want to beat the guy I'm across from whether I'm playing video games, whether I'm playing just a simple game or whether I'm playing football, I always want to win. So I think that is a good part of what drives me."
Q: What was your best sport growing up? It wasn't football for all NFL players . . .
A: "Yeah I think so. I played basketball. We had a real good team. We ended up winning the state title in high school basketball (Moon Area High School, Moon Township, Pa.). I was never tall enough. That never crossed my mind."
Q: When did you move to your position? Were you always an offensive lineman?
A: "I actually went to college and played defense. I went to college as a nose guard, played defense my first two years there and then I switched over my sophomore year."
Q: Was it a good fit from the start?
A: "Yeah I think the way I'm built, my size, all that. I think that fits the center position to a 'T' pretty much."
Q: What's your best football memory?
A: "Probably getting drafted (by Pittsburgh in 2009), just seeing my name go across that screen. It's a special moment to just to be able to share that with some of my friends and family and to actually see that and hear your name called. I think is pretty cool."
Q: When did you first think this was real? When did you first think, 'I have a chance to play in the NFL?'
A: "I think probably my sophomore year of college, whenever I started my first game. We started playing and I got a couple accolades after the season. Then the next year, I made first team all-conference. That was the first time I said, 'Okay, I think I can do this.' Playing in the top level in this conference (Big Ten), that was probably the first time."
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: "I'm a simple guy, I really am. No real rituals. I try and eat the same meal before games. That is about it, really. I don't put on one shoe before the other or anything like that. I just listen to the same pre-game playlist, music-wise that's about it, really. Other than that I don't tape my ankles. I don't tape my hands."
Q: What about life after football? Do you have any post-career plans?
A: "I don't know. I've thought about it a million times. I go back and forth on what I want to do. I thought being a strength coach was one thing that I wanted to maybe get in to, coaching, something staying around the game. I have a passion for it. I've always had one. I think somewhere staying around the game, whether it's coaching, scouting, whether it's strength."
Q: Who's the person most responsible for you being in the NFL?
A: "My parents. They were great role models growing up. They gave me every opportunity to succeed. They put me in positions. They went out of their way, bent over backwards in a lot of ways to get me to different camps and different things. I have to say I owe a lot to them."
Q: Do you have a particular high school coach or teacher who means a great deal to you? If so, why?
A: "I think my high school coach and my college coach. Rick Anderson was my position coach. Coach (Joe) Paterno at Penn State had a big impact on me as a player. My high school coach had a big impact. There have been so many people along the way, I'd leave too many names out if I started naming guys."
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: "I grew up in Pittsburgh so I grew up a Steelers fan, and I got drafted by them so it was a pretty awesome feeling. I also played high school football with a guy by the name of Darren Webster whose father is Mike Webster, Hall-of-Fame center for the Steelers. I grew up watching him and really, really liked his style of play. My dad was a big Steelers fan in the '70's when he played, so he showed me a lot of old games. I tried to kind of play the position somewhere near how he did."
Q: What was your first car?
A: "My first car really that I owned was when I got drafted, a Mercedes. I ended up trading it in in six months and getting a Tahoe. It fits me better."
Q: What was your first job?
A: "In college, I did worked at a golf course just cutting grass and things like that."
Q: What was your toughest job?
A: "The NFL, it's a year round job. Somebody is always out there trying to take your job. I think that's one thing you always got to keep in the back of your mind. You've got to constantly work because there are people out there constantly trying to get your job."
Q: Do you have a favorite quote that has inspired you in football or life? If so, what is it and why does it mean something to you?
A: "(I like), 'A man's reach must exceed his grasp.' I'm just always reaching further to become better and achieve more."
Q: What is it about football that drives you the most?
A: "Pressure on myself, I think that is one of the biggest things. I put so much pressure on myself to succeed. I expect myself to play a certain way. I expect myself to look a certain way when I'm watching the films and things like that. I think the type of pressure I put on myself, just constantly wanting to drive. I'm a perfectionist so if it doesn't look exactly how I want it, I strive to get there."