Will Shipley

Weddington senior Will Shipley will skip his senior season and join Clemson in January. The running back amassed over 4,000 rushing yards and scored 80 total touchdowns in three seasons with the Warriors.

One of the most electric football players in Union County history and the reigning county player of the year has decided to forego his senior season and start his path at the next level.

Weddington senior running back Will Shipley, who helped lead the Warriors to back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019, will graduate early and enroll at Clemson on January 3, he told The Enquirer-Journal on Monday. Shipley made it clear that while he’ll miss Weddington, the opportunity to join the Tigers before the spring made too much sense.

“At the end of the day, I know what my goals are,” Shipley said. “They’re a lot bigger than high school football and winning another state championship. I want to put myself in the best position to succeed at the next level. This is the best thing for me, even though it was probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

Shipley joined Weddington’s varsity squad as a freshman in 2017, and even as a freshman his abundance of talent was visible. That first year, the running back ran for 690 yards and five touchdowns on 109 carries, while also catching 19 passes for 423 yards and another eight scores.

After his freshman season, Shipley started making a name for himself on the recruiting stage. And after a stellar sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 1,810 yards of total offense and 25 total touchdowns, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound running back earned scholarships from some of the top programs in the country — including Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and several others.

The stress of the recruitment process didn’t seem to bother Shipley, as he had his best season yet and one of the best seasons by any player in county history in 2019. While helping the Warriors go undefeated and earn their second-straight state championship, Shipley ran for over 2,000 yards, caught 34 passes for 582 yards and scored a county-record 42 total touchdowns.

“When the news came out that we weren’t playing (in the fall), I told him, ‘Dude, you don’t owe the team anything, you don’t owe this program anything more. You’ve given all you could to this team and this program.’ ” said Weddington head coach Andy Capone. “And he’s still continuing to do it. He made that decision on Monday, and (Tuesday) he was out there at workouts being the same kid you would expect … The 80-yard touchdowns are nice, but the way the kid goes about his work, on the field, off the field, everything, you can’t help but be impacted by Will.”

Shipley finishes his high school career No. 7 in Union County history in rushing yards (4,173), No. 5 in rushing touchdowns (55) and No. 2 in total touchdowns (80).

Ranked as the No. 25 player in the Class of 2021 and the No. 1 player from North Carolina, Shipley committed to Clemson in May and will join a loaded Tigers team next season. Currently, Clemson is ranked No. 1 in the country and is among the favorites to win this year’s national championship.

Leading the way at running back this year for the Tigers is senior Travis Etienne, who has ran for 436 yards, caught 19 passes for 274 yards and scored six total touchdowns through five games. No other Clemson running back has more 100 total yards this season.

Shipley is one of two Class of 2021 running backs to commit to Clemson. The other is four-star Phil Mafah, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound back who has already run for 834 yards and 13 touchdowns in six games as a senior for Grayson High in Loganville, GA.

Shipley said he plans on using the spring to show Clemson’s coaches he’s deserving of early playing time.

“The work that I put in, I’m going to reap the benefits of that,” Shipley said. “So if I go in there, work my butt off and learn all the terminology, then I think I have a pretty good chance of playing early on, and that’s my goal. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get on the field, get reps and help the team in any way that I can. That’s just the mindset I have, that’s my competitive nature. When I get on the field, I want to be the best one out there, regardless of age, class or whatever. I’m going to go compete for the job.”