JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — After 31 years of coaching football — 17 as a head coach — one thing finally makes sense to Bob Shipley.
“I’d always heard, ‘When it’s time to retire, you’ll know,’” said the Burnet High School graduate and former head football coach and athletics director. “I now understand what that means, and I know it’s true.”
Shipley, who was the head football coach and AD for the Bulldogs from 2001-07, announced his retirement Jan. 6. He was in the middle of his third year as the head coach and athletics director at Belton Independent School District.
He and his wife, Sharon, returned to Burnet last July.
“I’m thankful and blessed to have coached so many great kids and been around some awesome parents,” he said. “I see a lot of good in kids today and have faith that our country will be a better place because of them.”
Shipley was an all-district football player for the Bulldogs in 1977 and 1978 and went on to play for Abilene Christian University. He guided the 2002 and 2003 Burnet football teams to back-to-back Class 3A state runner-up finishes. In the six years he was coach, the Bulldogs amassed a 54-19 overall record.
Those teams included a pair of future NFL players in quarterback Stephen McGee (Texas A&M), who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, and Shipley’s son and wide receiver Jordan Shipley (Texas), who played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars. They were far from being the only talented athletes on the squads. Also on the squads were Mason Templeton (Arkansas), Luke Pell (Army), Eddy Parker (Georgia Tech), and Eddie Rollman (Arizona).
“They were winners in every sense of the word,” he said. “A group of kids like that don’t come along very often. They bought into our vision whole-heartedly and were the best group I ever coached.”
Shipley resigned from Burnet after the 2006-07 school year to take the head coaching job at Coppell High School, where he spent the next two years and posted a 15-7 record.
In 2009, he was named the head coach and athletics director at Brownwood High School, where he coached his other son, Jaxon. He had a 39-14 record in four years with the Lions as well as four playoff appearances.
Shipley said he saw many similarities between Burnet and Brownwood with one exception. At Burnet, the Bulldogs had three gifted classes in consecutive years; the Lions had one class.
When Jaxon signed to play for the University of Texas, following in the footsteps of older brother Jordan, Bob went with him as the first football analyst for former head coach Mack Brown.
Bob said the experience was incredible because he was able to continue to see his son every day and work for Brown and former Longhorns athletics director DeLoss Dodds, who he called two of the greatest in college football history.
He said he worked breaking down opponents’ defenses four days a week and then on recruiting the other three. He charted plays for former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson in the booth during the 2013 season.
After that year, however, Shipley had the chance to return to high school coaching and accepted a job as head football coach and athletics director at Belton High School, where he went 19-16 his last three seasons. He was one of three coaches who could have remained at Texas and worked for former head coach Charlie Strong.
In July, Shipley and his wife moved back to Burnet, and Bob commuted to Belton each day. He noted that daughters Shelby and Addie might have been more upset about his retirement than their brothers.
“My girls loved it as much as the boys did,” he said regarding his coaching career. “They have great memories, and I do, too.”
Coaching, he said, was never about him and what others thought of him; it always was about teaching life lessons to his players such as overcoming adversity, playing hard, and setting a Christian example.
“When you’re through with football, you’re stuck with who you are,” he said. “We tried to teach them to give this game all you have but never let your identity be totally tied to being a football player. It’s never healthy when football entirely defines you as a person, and it’s scary when I see parents who put so much into their kids’ athletic careers that, unfortunately, the driving force of their time, effort, and words are wrapped up in them being an athlete and not developing them as a person.”