The second annual Cen-Tex Charitable Kicking Camp is taking place at Gordon Wood Stadium this week, as Matthew McCrane has joined forces with Jaxon Shipley as the two former Brownwood Lions football standouts are teaming up for a two-day receiving and kicking clinic.
McCrane, who rewrote the record book at Kansas State, played for the Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2018 regular season, booting 8 of 12 field goals with a long of 47 yards, while converting all nine extra-point attempts.
Shipley, who played receiver at Texas, was a member of the Arizona Cardinals during the 2015 and 2016 campaigns, spending most of his time on the practice squad, but has since retired to focus on family life and his new career.
“For both of us to be able to give back to Brownwood a little bit, we're super excited about it,” McCrane said during a break in Monday's action. “After our success last year, we were able to raise $3,000 for the Central Texas Veterans Memorial and we were really excited about the turnout. This year, I talked to Jaxon about how the camp went last year and he asked how he could help out. I said let's join up and do this, so we did.”
Shipley now runs Shipley Performance elite skills training and he conducts receiving camps and clinics throughout Texas, including one in Brownwood last summer. While touring much of the state, Shipley admitted returning to his former high school stomping grounds holds extra meaning for him.
“This place is special to me,“ Shipley said. “Going through this program, it taught me a lot about the value of hard work. It taught me a lot about how to have pride in where you're from, and have pride in your program. I took a lot of that with me to Texas and with me to the NFL and even beyond. It all started here so it's special for me to come back and try and teach these kids things that have made a difference in my game in hopes that it can help them along the same path.”
Money raised during the event, which will conclude Tuesday, will go toward the ARC of Brown County in its effort to build an all inclusive playground at Allcorn Park.
“This year we talked with Jana Brown and Coach (Brandon) Brown about the all inclusive playground initiative for kids with disabilities, which the Central Texas area really doesn't have,” McCrane said. “Jana reached out to me and said the ARC of Brown County needs some help and is wanting to get this done, so that's who we selected to go with this year.
“The sponsors I reached out to were for things that I use, so we've got holders, tees, balls, nets, all things that we use in the NFL along with some stuff Jaxon uses. We've got all that for sale at the camp and you can buy that online as well. It doesn't go to us, it goes straight to the ARC of Brown County and we're just excited to be out here and give back.”
McCrane added that he intends for the camp to continue for years to come.
“We plan on doing it year after year,” McCrane said.
McCrane, who is currently unsigned by an NFL franchise, also took time to reflect upon on a whirlwind rookie season in 2018.
“I enjoyed it, it was quite a ride,” McCrane said. “I played for three different teams and we had fun doing it. But you also learn to live out of a suitcase. It's a dream come true but at the same time it's also really difficult. Not only do you have to be successful on the field, you have to be able to handle the off the field issues too, like travel arrangements. My wife and I got married in March so it can put some strain on a newly married couple. Traveling in the offseason and also last year's season was tough. There's a lot of unknowns, it's week to week and you try to survive, but you're living a dream.”
With NFL training camps set to begin later this month, McCrane is hoping to get another chance to show off his leg for a franchise in need.
“With the rosters being set in the offseason, everything's full and there's only 32 people that do this job,” McCrane said. “When one comes available or someone gets injured, I just have to be ready to go and ready to play. You have to stay ready. Last year I learned even when you're not on a team you have to train the same way, eat the same way, still kick like I was going to play that coming Sunday. There's nothing right now, but there are some teams interested in bringing me in for a workout in the future. Usually they do that in training camp and the preseason.”
Shipley Performance, which is thriving and becoming more popular by the day, is a business venture Shipley admitted to having stumbled upon.
“It wasn't something that I really ever thought of,” Shipley said. “To be honest, youth sports development and performance training is kind of a new industry. I don't see it as a job, it's something I enjoy doing everyday. Basically I started working with some kids around the Austin area, they started telling their friends, then they started bringing their friends and before I knew it I had a pretty good little crew of guys in the Austin area. Then I had some coaches contact me throughout the state that asked me if I'd be interested in coming in and hosting receivers clinics, so I did that in some different places. I've been doing that throughout the spring and summer, along with day-to-day training stuff with receivers in the Austin area, then hosting some bigger passing camps in Austin. I never in a million years thought this was something that I could do. From where I started to where I am now, it's honestly just a blessing to be able to be involved in kids' lives and feel like you're making an impact.”
As for the future of his company, Shipley said, “The biggest thing I'd like to see next is growth online. What I'm working on right now is being able to take the stuff I travel and teach at these camps and clinics, and the system I teach kids all over Austin, and put it online — having a membership site with a database of videos where kids can pay a monthly subscription. It'll be a lot more cost effective and allow them to be able to learn without having to travel across the state. I want to be able to help as many kids as I can, but it's hard to travel all over the place.”
With the 2019 high school football season inching closer, Shipley was a member of the last Brownwood squad to capture a district championship — the offensive record-shattering 2010 campaign in which the Lions reached the state semifinals. Shipley still holds many fond memories from his final season in the maroon and white.
“There's times it seems like it was yesterday and there's times that it seems like it was an eternity ago,” Shipley said. “It crosses my mind from time to time. The season itself was amazing, it was a dream season. But any time the last game comes into my mind I try and replace it with another thought. It's shard to think about still, I try not to think about it too much, but I do think about the season we had and the friendships that were made and the camaraderie among the guys that were here, not only the players but the coaches.”