Texas receivers Jordan Shipley, left, and Quan Cosby will face sixth-ranked Texas Tech, Saturday (8 p.m. ET).
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Jordan Shipley's stats
Quan Cosby's stats
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AUSTIN, Texas – Ruffin McNeill heard a good one earlier this week.
"That's baloney," said McNeill, the Red Raiders' defensive coordinator. "Anyone that makes a statement like that is welcome to come join me for a little film session."
Indeed, watch any Texas game, and it's impossible not to notice Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby. The two seniors have combined for 114 catches, 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns to spark a Longhorns squad that's inching closer to a spot in the BCS title game.
To get there, though, Texas needs to defeat No. 6 Texas Tech in Lubbock – hardly an insurmountable task with players such as Cosby and Shipley on the roster.
"Neither of those guys," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said, "is getting the credit they deserve."
It really is tough to comprehend.
Shipley's 15 receptions against Oklahoma State last week were a school record, yet after the game, a reporter deadpanned that he probably wouldn't start for most schools in the SEC. Cosby caught a touchdown pass while laying on his back, and a few hours later, a television commentator talked about how impressive it was that Texas was winning without top-notch skill players.
Even this weekend, it's safe to say that Shipley and Cosby won't command as much attention as Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, who earned first-team All-American honors as a freshman last season. Crabtree is having another outstanding year along with Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant – all of whom probably will garner All-Big 12 honors ahead of the Texas duo.
Brown said the 5-foot-11 Cosby and the 6-foot Shipley might get overlooked because of their lack of height.
"That's the only reason I can think of," Brown said. "You see 6-3, 6-2, and 6-5 guys [at other schools], and then you see these two guys out there … they're real nice and they're real polite – and they just keep making plays.
"People say they're not fast enough and not tall enough, but they just keep defying everyone."
Jordan Shipley said he's glad they happened.
The knee injury during August two-a-days of his freshman season, the torn hamstring that kept him off the field one year later. Both incidents might have set Shipley back in football but, from a personal standpoint, they put his life – and his maturity – in fast forward.
Texas WR Jordan Shipley has 10 TDs through eight games.
(Brendan Maloney/US Presswire)
"All of the things that happened to me happened for a reason," Shipley said. "I wouldn't change anything, because all of it made me a stronger person. I knew the whole time that God had a plan for me. That's what carried me through all of those times."
Shipley arrived at Texas in the summer of 2004 after breaking numerous state receiving records at Burnet High School, located about 55 miles northwest of Austin. Brown said this week that he was considering starting Shipley as a freshman before he "ruined his knee" during a non-contact workout in August. The following year Shipley tore his hamstring "running against air," Brown said.
"The attitude he had during those first two years of being injured … we could all learn a lesson from that," said Bob Shipley, Jordan's father. "You never heard him complain or say, 'Why me?' He just let it make him stronger.
"It's kind of [unusual] when Dad gets advice like that from a son. He's been a great inspiration to me because of the way he's handled this."
Only now, Brown said, is Shipley beginning to reach his potential.
"He's finally well now," Brown said. "He feels like, for the first time, he can go play 100 percent. He can go full speed and block. He's just now healthy in his mind and his body."
Pleased as he is with the strides he's made on the field, Shipley said the reason for his success extends far beyond a healthy body or an increase in speed and experience.
Shipley has always been a devout Christian. Both of his grandfathers were ministers, and, even after road games, Shipley and roommate Colt McCoy are regulars at Sunday church services in Austin.
Still, despite his strong faith, Shipley said it wasn't until this past summer that he "got his mind right" about football and the role it plays in his life. For years, a poor practice or a bad game would gnaw at him for days. Shipley wanted that to change.
"I realized," Shipley said, "that I had to let go of football being the most important thing in my life. Football isn't what life is all about. I don't get any joy from people praising what I do on the football field. This is just a gift that God gave me to use to help other people."
Shipley has done just that, capitalizing on the forum that football has given him to reach out to area youth groups and high school students.
"He's very at peace now with who he is," said Bob Shipley, who coached Jordan in high school. "He came to the realization that football shouldn't define who he is or how he feels about himself.
"Once he began to relax and have fun – once he took the pressure off himself to be perfect – that's when the floodgates opened for him."
The last three weeks have been especially productive for Shipley. His 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the longest in Cotton Bowl history – helped Texas defeat then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 11. He followed that up by combining for 257 receiving yards in victories over No. 11 Missouri and No. 6 Oklahoma State.
Shipley has 10 receiving touchdowns on the season, a mark that ranks second only to Crabtree (14) and Bryant (11).
"Jordan was so down for two years," said McCoy, Shipley's roommate. "But he has so much talent, and he's such a competitor. Now he's getting to play and do what he loves to do. He's taking advantage of every opportunity out there.
"It's fun to sit back and watch and see how good he really is."
Every now and then, a handful of Texas players – including Shipley and McCoy – gather at Quan Cosby's apartment for a game of dominos or poker. But the fun doesn't last long.
"He's got two kids and a wife," McCoy said. "He needs time for that, too."
Texas WR Quan Cosby and QB Colt McCoy set a school record for most completions between a WR and QB.
(Andrew Carpenean/US Presswire)
Along with being one of the most productive players on the team, Cosby is also one of the most respected. At 25, he's the oldest person on the Longhorns' roster, a guy whose poise and life experiences often come in handy.
"People look up to him because of his maturity and wisdom," Shipley said. "He'll take someone aside and talk to them one on one if he sees something he can help them with. He has so much experience that he can use to help those younger guys."
Cosby's path to Texas was unconventional.
He signed with the Longhorns out of Mart (Texas) High School but was also a sixth-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in the 2001 Major League Baseball draft. Because he negotiated his contract – and his $825,000 signing bonus – without an agent, he was able to preserve his college eligibility.
After hitting .260 during four minor league seasons, Cosby said he was "burned out" on baseball. So he decided to return to football.
"I had a change of heart," Cosby said. "I'm huge on prayer. I prayed about my situation. God definitely put me on the path he wanted me on. I had a good time in baseball, a good career. Fortunately, I'm having a good time here also."
Cosby and his wife, Stasia, have two daughters. One of them is 2 years old and the other is three months.
"I go about my business a lot differently than [my teammates] do," said Cosby, who is nine hours short of his degree in social work. "I go home to a family the majority of the time. They pretty much go to the dorm or go home and play video games. They realize I have a little more on my plate."
Apparently it hasn't been overwhelming for Cosby, who ranks just behind Shipley in receptions per game (7.0) and yards per game (86). Cosby has also developed a reputation for his highlight-reel catches, evidenced by the touchdown pass he caught against Oklahoma State while lying on his back.
"I don't know that I've ever seen that before," Brown said.
Even before he began to flourish as an athlete, Cosby made a series of wise decisions that would impact his future.
Prior to high school, Cosby's home life lost structure when his mother began working two jobs. He shared a bedroom with two of his brothers and barely had enough money to get by.
In ninth grade, Cosby moved in with the parents of a classmate who sensed he needed help. Ever since, Albert and Deborah Satchell have been Cosby's guardians. He said they gave him the discipline and guidance it took to persevere in the classroom and on the athletic field.
"Albert is the only person who has been to every single one of my home games," said Cosby, who still maintains a relationship with his mother and siblings. "My path has been almost a fairy tale."
Cosby started for Texas in its victory over USC in the 2005 national title game and has been a prominent part of the Longhorns' offense ever since. Earlier this season he and McCoy set a school record for most completions between a quarterback and receiver.
Sharing the field with Cosby, Shipley said, has made his game stronger.
"He's as good of a player as I've been around," Shipley said. "To have him on the other side of the field … teams have to respect him over there. I think it frees everyone up. Not only me and the other receivers, but the running game, too."
Shipley and Cosby are crossing their fingers that their success continues against Texas Tech. A victory over the Red Raiders would make Texas the heavy favorite to claim the Big 12 South crown, meaning they could catapult into BCS championship with a victory in the conference title game.
Even if Texas finishes the regular season undefeated, Cosby and Shipley realize that postseason honors might be reserved for bigger, taller receivers who are future first-round draft picks.
"Vertical jumps, 40-yard dash times, heights and weights … none of that matters on the field," Shipley said. "We like that we have a team without a bunch of egos. We don't care about who gets the credit or the accolades – as long as we win."