Plain and simple, Byron Shipman really didn’t have a choice of what high school he was going to attend.
Shipman was born to become a Man for Others, meaning that he was destined to attend St. Peter’s Prep.
“My father [Rodney] went to Prep [Class of 1985],” Shipman said. “And my older brother went there [Brendan, Class of 2005],” Shipman said. “I was pretty much around the Prep way of life my whole life. I knew about the atmosphere at the school.”
And there’s one other factor. Byron Shipman has a twin brother, Bryson, who was also going to head to Grand and Warren, so the Shipman twins were going there together.
“I guess we pretty much had to go,” Byron Shipman said.
Needless to say, Prep was a Shipman family affair.
When Byron Shipman first enrolled at Prep, he wanted to be a basketball player.
“I came to Prep to play basketball,” Shipman said. “That was always my favorite sport.”
But Byron had also been a football player as well.
“I have been playing football my whole life,” Shipman said. “So I wanted to play football as well.”
The Shipman twins were both football players throughout their freshman and sophomore years, when Bryson decided to forego football for a chance to play rugby instead.
But for Byron, he soon found out that his future was on the gridiron, particularly as a wide receiver.
“I thought he grew into the position,” St. Peter’s Prep head football coach Rich Hansen said. “Between his sophomore and junior years, he really took off and made really good strides in becoming a good receiver for us. He did have the size and he had pretty good hands.”
Last year, as a junior, Byron Shipman emerged as a top-flight receiver, a 6-foot-4 lanky pass catcher with excellent hands and a nose for the football.
“He had some really good games for us last year,” Hansen said. “I thought he did a good job for us learning the position. He was in a little bit of a supporting role, but he caught his share of passes.”
“I knew I had more of a career playing football,” Shipman said.
So Shipman gave up playing basketball to concentrate on becoming the main pass catcher for quarterback Tahjamell Bullock this season.
“It was a pretty hard decision to make,” Shipman said. “But I knew it was one that I had to make. I knew I wanted to get bigger and stronger before my senior season. I needed to get my body ready now that I was concentrating on football. I always had it in the back of my mind that I could be the No. 1 target for Tahj. I also wanted to be a leader for my teammates. I wanted to be the man.”
To prepare for the season, Bullock and Shipman attended a few talent combines together over the summer months. The pair went to the Adidas Rivals Camp at Franklin High School and went to the Nike Opening Camp, which was held at the New York Jets’ practice facility in Florham Park.
“That was pretty cool, going to see where the Jets practice,” Shipman said.
However, disaster struck Shipman in the early going. During the Marauders’ first scrimmage of the 2019 campaign in August against Seton Hall Prep, Shipman suffered a severely high ankle sprain that forced him to the sidelines.
“Sometimes, a high ankle sprain is worse than a break,” Hansen said. “We weren’t sure how long he was going to be out. He was going to have to tough through it, but it’s really tough to come back from it. We slowly brought him back. We were fortunate to have other guys we could go to, so that enabled us to be patient. But then he finally felt comfortable, that he could plant, cut and jump to come back to some sense of normalcy.”
“It was frustrating,” Shipman said. “It’s my senior year and I’m supposed to be the leader. It was a big problem for me. I had to make sure that my teammates were good, but I knew that I was going to come back.”
Shipman missed the first two games of the season, but when he came back, he came back with a vengeance.
Shipman returned for the Marauders’ big rivalry game against Bergen Catholic.
“I played the whole game,” Shipman said. “I had four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. I knew what was expected of me and I let the game come to me. I didn’t force anything.”
Shipman helped the Marauders gain a clutch come-from-behind last-minute win over the Crusaders to keep the momentum going after the first two wins of the season.
Hansen saw what Shipman meant to the Marauders.
“I think he is finally understanding how important he is to us,” Hansen said. “He has the physical attributes to be dominating. He is probably one of the most dominating receivers in the state.”
Last week in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 quarterfinals against Notre Dame of Trenton, Shipman showed everyone just how dominating he could be. He made two of the most incredible catches a high school receiver could make.
First, in the first half, Shipman jumped high over a defender to snare a 30-yard pass from Bullock that was beyond acrobatic. Shipman had to reach over the defender’s helmet to snare the pass, then tumbled to the ground, keeping the ball securely in his arms. Shipman’s hands had to be about nine feet off the ground.
“When the ball came up to me, I was on my bad side,” Shipman said. “I was hoping he would throw it up to me. I just jumped up and made sure I had the catch. It looked like my best catch, but I was pretty sure I could make more.”
That catch was thought to be the highlight of the season, but in reality, it was just a precursor for the granddaddy of all receptions.
In the second half, Shipman went after a ball from Bullock that at first appeared to sail way over his head.
“I was just running and I saw the ball,” Shipman said. “I just put my hand out and got it.”
That’s right, one handed, a la Odell Beckham, Jr., although Shipman said that he didn’t have the Giants’ receiver in mind when he did it.
“It just happened to fall into my hands,” Shipman said. “I might have been a little more surprised, but my teammates were all cheering, so I knew I had it.”
Shipman’s one-handed grab for a 55-yard touchdown was clearly one of the best catches ever recorded in Hudson County high school football.
“It was one of the best of my career,” Shipman said, obviously understating it.
“He does that in practice sometimes just to bust my chops,” Hansen said. “I scream at him all the time, how to grab the ball. My first reaction was, ‘Wow, that’s a great catch.’ As long as he does it in a game and it’s for a touchdown, it’s okay.”
In the game, Shipman had four receptions for 90 yards and that touchdown. The Marauders won, 43-35, to advance to the sectional semifinal this weekend against St. Augustine Prep.
For his efforts, Shipman has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Shipman has already received several scholarship offers from schools like Rutgers, Cincinnati, Liberty, Western Michigan and Sacred Heart.
“I’m still up in the air about school,” Shipman said. “Right now, I’m focused on the season and winning a state championship. When I have to a make a decision, I will. It’s been a good season for us and we’ve been striving to get to this place. Hopefully we can come up with a win.”
“The fact that he’s put himself in the position to be a scholarship player is impressive,” Hansen said. “When you get a feel for his whole body of work, there will be more offers for him. I hope it leads to bigger and better things for him.”
Hansen said that Shipman’s mature demeanor is a credit to his parents, but also the St. Peter’s Prep aura.
“I think part of it is our culture,” Hansen said. “It’s about being humble and being grateful. I think he’s with a lot of guys who share the same goals. Sure, it’s his family, but it’s the culture too.”
Like he was born to be a Man for Others. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com