JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Though the 2013 high school football season won’t kick off for a few more months, college scouts have been making tracks on U.S. 281 and RR 1431.
That’s because there are Highland Lakes players who university programs believe have the talent and work ethic to play on the next level.
Two of them are Burnet High School kicker and punter Austin Huff and Faith Academy junior Hanner Shipley.
There might have been this many college football scouts in Burnet County before, but they concentrated on one place: Burnet High School.
That was in the early 2000s when the Bulldogs featured quarterback Stephen McGee and receiver Jordan Shipley. While the two played for Texas A&M University and the University of Texas, respectively, they weren’t the only ones who signed. The Bulldogs featured linemen Eddie Roman, Eddy Parker and Mason Templeton and linebackers Luke Pell and Ty Kuhn, who all played college football.
For Bulldogs head coach Kurt Jones, who was an assistant coach during that time, what he is seeing now with the recruitment of Huff isn’t unfamiliar to him.
“We had almost daily someone show up, the telephone would ring or someone sitting here in the office,” he said. “It’s exciting for coaches and staff and exciting for kids.”
During those conversations, scouts convey how much they’d like to see a player attend a camp, request more film and want more on a player beyond the game statistics with which they’re already familiar.
Huff has been looked at by Louisiana State University, Texas State University, Oklahoma University, the University of Texas-El Paso, Yale and Princeton. That doesn’t include Division II and Division III schools, which are on a very long list, Jones said.
UT defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was in Burnet about two weeks ago to talk to Jones. The process started in late February, the Burnet coach said.
Since then, the Huff family has been to the campus, visited with Longhorns head coach Mack Brown and met former kicker Justin Tucker, now a member of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, which won Super Bowl XXXV in February.
Shipley is generating some looks before he even starts his junior season.
Shipley is the cousin of receivers Jordan Shipley of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jaxon Shipley of the University of Texas. His father, Stephen Shipley, was a receiver at Texas Christian University.
Representatives from Baylor University and Texas A&M have talked to Faith head coach Russ Roberts. The University of Houston has been on campus to see Roberts. And thanks to his ties with the Longhorns, Shipley considers the 40 acres another home, often attending home games to cheer on his cousins.
But unlike at public schools, Roberts said having college scouts is different at Faith “for obvious reasons.”
“The first emotion you have is one of thanks,” he said. “Every time someone looks at Hanner, they’re going to look at our other kids. You have a lack of visibility. People don’t see your kids.”
Like Huff, scouts want Shipley to attend their camps. Shipley already has been at TCU and Baylor camps, said Roberts, who attended the camps with the Shipleys.
“He was milling around and meeting the other recruits,” Roberts said. “These are big-time recruits. You couldn’t tell him from them. He looks just like them. When he walks into a group of recruits, you don’t lose him in a crowd, you still see him.”
Shipley started as a quarterback but has moved to defensive lineman, tight end and offensive lineman.
“He’s a better receiver than I thought he was,” Roberts said. “He has good hands, and he’s difficult to cover. You can’t go through him, you can’t go over him. We’ll have to teach our quarterbacks how to use that to our advantage.”
Both head coaches said when players see a college representative, the practices are more focused and the intensity level rises.
“Those kids tend to pick it up a little bit,” Jones said with a grin.
And both agree this kind of attention on individual players and programs can only help as athletes continue to play 7-on-7 football, participate in summer strength-and-conditioning programs and go to combines and camps.
“It’s always exciting to see your kids’ hard work and dedication to what they do begin to pay off in those kinds of ways,” Jones said.