John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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When it came time to walk off the field after his final college football game, Dartmouth College defensive tackle Lane Shipley decided to do it without shoes.
It was a move the 6-foot-2-inch, 280-pound former Steamboat Springs High School standout has been thinking about since he was a teenager, an idea inspired by American wrestling legend Rulon Gardner. Gardner, who won the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics, left his shoes in the middle of the wrestling mat after placing third at the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. It was his final match.
Shipley left his shoes on the 50-yard line after Dartmouth topped Princeton University, 31-0. It was the first time in Shipley’s college career that Dartmouth had finished with a winning record at 6-4. But he knew that day was the end of the road for his football dreams. There would be no bowl game invitations waiting in Hanover, N.H., to extend his career one more game. The only thing waiting for him was the final stretch of his education, and the opportunities that will define his life.
Shipley is good with that, and happy that he went out on his own terms. Truth is that had his season been extended, he would have needed to borrow some clothing from his teammates. Not only had he given up his shoes that day, but a week earlier, he and a teammate had given their gloves to some autograph-seeking youngsters along the sidelines at Dartmouth’s final home game.
“I have no idea where (the shoes) are now,” Shipley said. “My guess is that they are in a landfill somewhere.”
That final day could have been a sad one. But instead of looking back on what was, Shipley says he prefers to move forward.
“I’m thankful that I’m walking away healthy, and I’m thankful that I had 12 great years (middle school, high school and college) to play a game that I love,” he said. “But there is a time when things have to come to an end, and I’m ready. I’m excited to move on.”
Last winter, Shipley, a history major, worked at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, and this week, he is in Dallas working for a sports marketing company leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas.
Until then, the Steamboat Springs High School graduate will be helping to organize activities and checking out the local scene so he can escort VIPs to the different attractions during Super Bowl week. He is looking forward to his college graduation and the next chapter of his life. Because of an injury that sidelined Shipley his freshman year, he still has a year of eligibility left. But he said he would not return for another year.
He says he is not sure where his future will lead, or if he wants to pursue a career on the business side of football.
The exciting part is that despite walking away from one chapter of his life, he understands there still are plenty of places to roam. I’m betting he will land on his feet — with or without shoes.