By Teresa Varley
For A.Q. Shipley it seemed like an eternity waiting for his phone to ring during the draft weekend.
"I think early on I was obviously frustrated," said Shipley. "I was thinking I was going to go a little earlier and I started getting calls and I was hoping for that one call that would put me on a team."
When that call finally came, it didn't matter how long he had waited because of who was on the other end - the Steelers. For someone who grew up a Steelers fan in Coraopolis, Pa., just outside of the city of Pittsburgh, it was truly a dream come true.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Shipley. "As a Steelers fan growing up especially being from Pittsburgh – it meant the absolute world to me when I finally got the call and Coach (Mike) Tomlin got on the phone. It was unbelievable.
"It feels amazing. I grew up a Steelers fan and wanted to be a Steeler my whole life."
Shipley, who played at Penn State, was selected in the seventh round with the 226th pick overall. But even though he was a late pick, he might have found himself with a team where his chances are good. The Steelers have Justin Hartwig as their starting center, but there isn't a true back-up behind him.
"I think this is a great fit for me," said Shipley. "After Justin Hartwig I think the back-up center last year was the starting guard. So the fact that I have an opportunity to go in and make the team and learn from a guy like Justin Hartwig who has Super Bowl experience, has a Super Bowl win and who's been in the league for awhile and is a very good center himself is great. It's going to be a great opportunity to learn from him and Coach (Larry) Zierlein."
Shipley knows a lot about the history of centers the Steelers have had and on a pre-draft visit to the Steelers practice facility he couldn't help but notice the small, but impressive group of centers featured on one of the walls. There is one in particular that stands out for him, Mike Webster, who he has patterned his game after.
"Mike Webster has always been a big hero of mine," said Shipley, who played high school football with Webster's son Garrett at Moon High School, "He was one of the greatest centers ever to play the game and the best probably ever with the Steelers. I watched him play. I tried to model my game after his. Being the same size and stature as him he is a guy I really have followed."
Something that could work in Shipley's advantage is his ability to step in at guard if needed. He hasn't played there since his freshman year, but he is plenty capable.
*"I played a little bit of guard, but being able to make the line calls and getting everybody on board my last three years at Penn State ultimately forced me into the center position," said Shipley.
One of the knocks on Shipley before the draft, and possibly a reason he didn't go until the seventh round, was his short arms. But don't expect that to be a problem.
"It's never (been a liability) and I don't plan on them being one," said Shipley. "I've gotten that knock throughout this whole process going into the NFL. It makes me work that much harder to improve the other attributes that I have that allow me to be the player that I have been all through college and will hopefully allow me to be that player in the NFL.
"This is unbelievable. The fact that I have the opportunity to play for the best franchise in professional football, it's an opportunity I am not going to let go."