Eagles feature

Not hard to figure out origin of Will Shipley's competitive streak

Eagles rookie running back is known as a fierce competitor, which began from backyard battles with his older brother.

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Eagles rookie running back Will Shipley is known for his competitiveness and it’s not hard to figure out the origin.

He’s a little brother.

If you’re a little brother, you get it. If you’re not, allow his older brother, James Shipley, to explain.

“I think part of it is that he always had to play up,” Shipley said last week. “Being so competitive and losing so much at a young age probably drives a lot of what he is today.”

The Eagles clearly value competitiveness and they thought enough of Will Shipley to take him in the fourth round (No. 127 overall) in last month's draft. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni wants his players to compete in everything they do. It’s why he challenges draft prospects to games of H-O-R-S-E and it’s why we’ve heard about those Rock-Paper-Scissors showdowns.

Sirianni is a younger brother too, by the way, and he probably has plenty of memories like the ones that were born at the Shipley house is Weddington, North Carolina.

The boys’ father, James, said Will played up a couple grades in most sports until he was about 8, mostly because James and his wife Tammy didn’t want to have to go to more than one practice. But it worked. The boys competed on the field but the battles at home were just as epic.

“Oh yeah,” Will said. “We got after it.”

There were some legendary 2-on-2 basketball games in the backyard and memories of James Jr. pinning Will by putting his knees on his arms and not letting him up. And, of course, there was time when Will suffered a loss in FIFA on Xbox and took out his frustration by yanking down a pull-up bar from the door frame and swinging wildly it at his older brother. Thankfully, Will missed James. The wall wasn’t so lucky.

“Listen, I was a younger brother,” James Sr. said. “I think you’re born with that competitiveness somewhat but I also think it’s developed. And I think that helped it develop tremendously.”

Courtesy: Shipley family

When Will, 21, was drafted by the Eagles last month, he was excited just to be in the NFL, but he was even more excited to come to Philadelphia. He had already gained a love and appreciation for the city thanks to his brother.

See, while Will’s NFL career in Philly is just beginning, James, 23, just wrapped up his collegiate lacrosse career as a captain at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past few years, Will estimates he’s been to the city 15-20 times to watch his brother play for the nationally ranked program.

“He came to a bunch of games the last couple years, which was really awesome,” James said. “As busy as he is, to come to as many games as he did was a lot of fun. He spent a lot of time with my team. I think he became really close to a lot of my teammates.”

The boys were undoubtedly close when they were kids but they grew even closer once James went off to college. Dad thinks the inevitable split just showed both brothers how deep their connection really was.

As youngsters, they of course butted heads. There was constant competition. But there was just a natural evolution of their relationship that happened as they matured.

“I’m so thankful for him,” Will said. “Not only has he paved the way for me to get here and helping me out and just everything I’ve done. He’s been a trailblazer for me and just a complete role model and someone I look up to. And love him to death. I’m glad we’ve been able to put the competitive edge behind us and get a lot closer here these last couple years.”

Courtesy: Shipley family

The night before rookie minicamp, Will sat in his hotel room and it finally hit him: He was a professional in Philadelphia. The whole family thinks it’s a good fit.

And it’s not lost on any of them that Will’s time in the city is beginning just as his brother’s time here is ending.

“It’s kind of ironic,” James Sr. said. “It’s funny because we were at the Ivy League lacrosse tournament and we have several folks there that are from Philadelphia. It was ironic because everybody was like, ‘I guess we’re not getting rid of the Shipleys. We got them forever now.’ It’s ironic and they’re excited.”

Son James is graduating from UPenn later this month; his lease is up on May 31 and he starts his new job on June 6 in New York. He’s going to work at a startup company with some friends from college.

Big brother won’t be in the city anymore but he won’t be far away either.

“The New York train’s an hour,” he said. “With so many friends from Philly, from UPenn that are now in New York as well, I believe we’ll be making a ton of trips back to watch the Eagles play.”

During Will’s visits to see his brother’s lacrosse team, Will became friends with plenty of James’ teammates. And because Will was a star lacrosse player himself in high school, he played against plenty of those guys before.

So Will is still going to be a Penn lacrosse fan. And now the Shipleys are going to be Eagles fans.

“I think it’s going to be an excellent fit,” James Sr. said. “I haven’t experienced an Eagles game but several of our friends now are Eagles fans and I know what great fans they have and diehard fans and competitive fans and their reputation of being all in. I think Will’s personality is going to fit in, in that atmosphere.”

While Will’s parents have yet to visit the Linc for an Eagles game, James has been to a bunch. One of his best friends is from West Chester and his family has season tickets and James even went to a game for his birthday a couple years ago.

Big brother will be just an hour train ride away from watching his little brother in the NFL.

“It’s been fun to become a quasi Philly sports fan the last couple years,” he said. “And now I have a real reason to, which is great.”

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