The Colts surprised everyone when they chose to not add a defensive tackle through the draft or free agency. With the departure of veteran Al Woods in free agency, there seems to be a bit of a hole there on the defensive line. After not adding a defensive lineman initially as an undrafted free agent either, they elected to sign Alcorn State defensive tackle Sterling Shippy after a rookie minicamp.
Shippy is a bit small standing at 6’1” but he makes up for that size deficiency with great athleticism and quickness. As a Senior, Shippy was named Team Captain by his coaches and finished the year with 8 sacks. Outside of that though, there is very little information out there about him. I decided to interview his Head Coach at Alcorn State to find out what kind of person he really is.
Fred McNair has been the Head Coach at Alcorn State since 2016 when Shippy was a Sophomore. In my conversation with McNair, we discussed Shippy nearly walking away from the program, what type of leader he is, and why we shouldn’t doubt his ability to make this roster.
Interview with Coach Fred McNair
ZH: I read that Shippy left Alcorn State in 2015 after suffering a pretty serious injury. In 2016 when you were named Head Coach, you decided to bring him back to the team. What went into that decision to bring him back to the program?
FM: He left with his injury and you know he didn’t come back for whatever reason that I don’t know. Once I got the job in 2016, I was the first person he reached out to and he called me and said “Coach I got my stuff straight and I want to come back” and he got all his paperwork and everything was cleared up. You know I wanted Shippy back because he is a great individual man. Not only a great player but a great individual who works hard, does what he’s told, and I was really excited to get Shippy back. He came in and became a starter for us and played a great role in our defense for us.
ZH: Yeah that kind of leads to my next question. He came in after nearly leaving football and became a star for you all. In your opinion, how did he make that transition to star player so quickly?
FM: I’ll tell you what, Shippy came in as a possessed person because Shippy wanted to do well on and off the field. In the classroom he’s an outstanding person and on the field the strength and conditioning coaches were so amazed with him that he did everything right. He didn’t take any shortcuts and he wanted to be great and that was the only thing he was concerned about, being the best. The strength and conditioning coach took him under his wings and he did an outstanding job at his Pro Day and that’s just who he is. He wants to be good in everything he does and he’s willing to do the work.
ZH: This past season, you all rewarded him with a Team Captaincy. How did he react to that? Did he take on a leadership role with the team?
FM: All the guys respected him. The coaches did a great job with him. In terms of leading, he wasn’t a very vocal leader but he led by example. The way he carried himself around campus and the way he carried himself around the field, he’s going to get the job done and people will fall in behind him and that’s the type of leader he was. He was just a “follow me” type and a “I’m going to show you the way” type so that was one of the things we saw in Shippy when deciding to make him a Team Captain. Without words, he’s a leader in flesh and blood.
ZH: He was an absolute terror on the defensive line for you guys. What made him so dominant on the interior at Alcorn State?
FM: Shippy was quick. Quick on the take-off, quick on the snap, quick getting down the line. Shippy did everything right. We always got on him a lot of times because he would get into the backfield so fast that he would need to slow himself down and he’d overpursue the play sometimes. His quickness and his speed, all of those things about Shippy made him stand out and be above the rest. His physical gifts and the way he practiced. He practiced full speed, he played full speed, and that was the way Shippy was.
ZH: The Colts ask their defensive tackles to do a lot of one gapping and penetrating quickly up field. Do you think that is a role that Shippy will excel in?
FM: No doubt, no doubt. One gapping is something Shippy would be really good at. His quickness and his ability at the point of attack because he is a strong kid. He’s been in the weight room putting them back so his quickness and his strength, I think that would be a great fit for him.
ZH: He wasn’t drafted in this past draft class and wasn’t even a priority undrafted free agent. Do you think the NFL overlooked him in this past class?
FM: When you look at it, I think all Shippy wanted was an opportunity to be in the NFL and I think he got that with the Colts when he got the opportunity to come in and work out to make the team. What he wanted, he got. He got his opportunity to put on a showcase for them and that’s what he wanted more than anything. A lot of times, HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities) get overlooked so he’s just got to take advantage of this opportunity and make the best of it and I think he will.
ZH: What was one thing that stands out about Shippy’s character that makes him different than most players you’ve coached in your career?
FM: His mannerisms and the way he carried himself, he always wants to be great. He is a very spoken guy and he wants to do everything the right way. He has a good characteristic of himself and the thing he does and it’s hard to say bad things about him. One thing that just stood out was the way he carried himself, his mannerisms, and how he views himself as a person.
ZH: Final question. What would you say to anyone doubting Shippy’s chances of making this roster?
FM: I would just say that Shippy is determined to make the roster. That is one thing with him, when he has his mind set on something, his determination is one of his biggest assets. He is willing to do whatever it takes to make the roster. I would just say keep your eyes on Shippy this offseason.