Sam Shipley isn’t your typical University of Maine football recruit.
That didn’t stop the 23-year-old linebacker from Santa Barbara, Calif., from joining several other players Wednesday in signing a National Letter of Intent to attend UMaine next fall.
“It’s a very unique situation, one of those deals where we liked him as a football player (on video), but we weren’t driving our cars or flying out to see him,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He really sold himself to us over the phone.”
UMaine received 10 NLIs Wednesday before the snowstorm forced closure of the university and thus delayed the processing of several others. The rest of the class should be announced Thursday.
“I’m excited about the class,” Cosgrove said. “It’s a little bit of a disappointment to have to work through some challenges, Mother Nature being one of them, but there’s no reason to think everything isn’t going to be as it was.”
UMaine’s first 10 signees include three players from Maryland, two each from New Jersey and New York and one apiece from Virginia, Pennsylvania and California.
Last season, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Shipley ranked eighth in the state with 102 tackles for Santa Barbara City College. The sophomore was an all-conference first-team pick and was named the team’s Defensive MVP.
“He just has a knack for the game of football that you can’t teach,” said SBCC coach Craig Moropoulos, who also raved about Shipley’s character.
Shipley started at SBCC in 2006, then returned last fall after spending two years on a Mormon mission in southern Texas. He is married and has a son Bentley, who was born last fall.
“I can guarantee you that kid is a good citizen, a committed student, a good football player and an all-around good person,” Moropoulos said.
Shipley demonstrated his integrity after committing to UMaine during his visit to Orono last month when, reportedly, he arrived wearing shorts.
Immediately upon his return to California, he received a scholarship offer from nearby Northern Arizona, a top-level Football Championship Subdivision program.
Moropoulos said Shipley explained he had committed to UMaine and politely declined.
“He’s a much more mature type of kid,” Moropoulos said. “He’s pretty special.”
UMaine has a limited history of signing junior college players. The last was defensive lineman Eric Lee, who completed his eligibility in 2009.
Shipley is another exception.
“We were impressed with this kid, how driven he seemed to be, how much homework he’d done on us,” Cosgrove said. “He came here and really impacted us and the players.”
Other players who signed with UMaine Wednesday include: linebacker Brian Anthony (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) of Columbia, Md., safety Aamad Bush (6-3, 193) of Montclair, N.J., offensive linemen Dan Carriker (6-3, 304) of Alexandria, Va., Chase Hoyt (6-4, 275) of West Chester, Pa., and Bruce Johnson (6-3, 265) of Rochester, N.Y., defensive end Michael Kozlakowski (6-3, 240) of Lynbrook, N.Y., wide receiver Najee Green (6-3, 180) of Brandywine, Md., running back Daniel Upson (6-3, 200) of Gaithersburg, Md., and cornerback Malik Walker (5-11, 175) of East Orange, N.J.
Upson reportedly chose UMaine over an offer from Bowl Championship Subdivision member New Mexico.
UMaine also continued its recent trend of tapping the Mid-Atlantic region for recruits.
“We have to,” Cosgrove said. “We’re trying to compete in the best FCS conference in the country and we’ve got to find athletes who will give us a chance to do that.”
He explained that in addition to the wealth of talent in the Greater Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area, several of UMaine’s Colonial Athletic Association opponents are located in the region.
“In a lot of ways, it’s almost bringing the (UMaine road) game back to their home,” Cosgrove said. “It’s been a good recruiting spot for us that we’re going to continue to look at.”