Prep Football: Making it cool to play football again at Murray
One of the first things Mike Richmond vowed to accomplish, upon taking the head coaching job at Murray High, was to get kids playing football again.
That sounds a bit astonishing, considering how much the sport has grown in Utah at the prep level. But Murray is an exception. The Spartans have been among the most down-trodden programs in the state, and kids have stopped showing up.
Bo Shipley comes in here. He would be the strapping 6-foot-2 linebacker who goes 230 pounds and packs a wallop of a tackle. He would also be the one who hasn't played the sport in five years.
"I was involved with other sports when I stopped playing football in the eighth grade," Shipley said. "I also wasn't nearly as big of a kid. I've been thinking of making a comeback for a while now. When we got a new coach, I just wanted to come back, help out and do my part."
Richmond recruited Shipley off the baseball team. He took a look at him, glanced at his thin depth chart and immediately saw a starter. Shipley's one of those big-but-fast guys, one of those players who can change games making tackles.
The coach made the pitch: Come join our team, and you can have a standout senior season. You may be able to attract the attention of college scouts, and you can carry the ball at running back for good measure.
Richmond told Shipley he would have to put in the work, but it would be fun as well.
"His eyes kind of perked up when I told him that I would play him a little at running back," Richmond said. "He kicked the decision around a little bit, and he finally decided to come aboard. It may have been five years since he's played football, but you wouldn't know it. He's one of the most athletic and most physical kids on the team."
Murray's debut, a 14-7 loss to Cyprus, wasn't what Richmond wanted. But that didn't overshadow the fact that Shipley played very well defensively and that the Spartans had chances to tie or win the game down the stretch.
Maybe the most important thing here is the fact that Shipley could be a trailblazer of sorts. The star baseball player is making it cool to play football again at Murray High. Other athletes roaming the halls may now be a bit more eager to cast their lot on the gridiron again.
For Richmond, the process may be slow, but Shipley is undeniably a big step.
"I really just missed the game," Shipley said. "I wanted to come back. Every Friday night, I would be in the stands wondering if I could help out on the field."
Shipley is answering that question now. One Friday night at a time.
The Bo Shipley file
Plays for Murray's baseball program.
Started at linebacker on Friday night against Cyprus.
Last played football in the eighth grade.