Friday Night Hero: North Rowan’s Vince Shropshire
By David Shaw
SPENCER ó Vince Shropshire wants to let us in on a little secret.
North Rowan’s first Friday Night Hero since 2007 has a bit of a split personality. Off the field his warm, inviting smile is a signature trait.
“A joker,” teammate Javon Hargrave explained, resisting a laugh. “But on the field, he’s so serious. No smiles on the field.”
On the field, to put it simply, Shropshire is a senior madman. He plays with a wounded-animal ferocity, playing the game at his own pace with his own manic-inspired brand of passion.
“I guess you could say I have two personalities,” he said earlier this week, just days after leading North to a 16-14 victory in its YVC opener at South Stanly. “One on the field and one off the field. I’m a completely different person on Friday night. When I’m out there, I’m playing mad.”
That’s how Shropshire rolls. He’s even a hybrid, two-way threat for the Cavs ó ranging from sideline-to-sideline as a ball-hawk linebacker and doubling as a rugged, in-your-face fullback. Now he’s added another distinction: team leader.
“He was an immediate leader in the weight room this season,” coach Tasker Fleming noted. “He was always eager, offering to do whatever I needed him to do. He put a load on his shoulders and said, ‘I can get this job done.'”
By rushing for 75 yards and snagging a couple of passes out of the backfield last week, Shropshire flashed his leading-man charisma and may have righted a rudderless ship. The Cavs ó 1-10 a year ago ó had strayed off-course during an 0-4 start when they were outscored 119-12 and averaged only 90 yards total offense per game. When they fell behind 14-0 in the third quarter against South, it looked and smelled like another lost cause.
“What we did,” Shropshire recalled, “was play the rest of the game the same way we play Salisbury. We knew we had to get to work.”
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Shropshire was the first to roll up his sleeves. He ripped off a 32-yard run to the South 14, a burst that set up the Cavs’ first touchdown. One snap later quarterback Jesse Rudisell dragged three defenders into the end zone to make it 14-6.
Fleming said North ó particularly Shropshire ó was able to run effectively between the tackles for the first time this season.
“He ran with passion,” the second-year coach said. “He ran hard and hard-nosed, fighting for every inch.”
When Hargrave tackled South Stanly’s quarterback in the end zone for a safety, the Cavs sensed they were back in business.
“It was the biggest play of the game,” said Shropshire. “The defense gave us the push we needed. That was the play that won the game. We were all up a level and real excited, but that safety made us believe we could win.”
It put North within striking distance. Midway through the fourth period Shropshire caught a second-and-14, over-the-middle pass from Rudisell that produced a 15-yard gain and a first down on the South Stanly 7.
“We knew no one was gonna pick me up because we ran it before and the same thing happened,” he said. “A big hole opened, I went through it untouched. I turned around and the ball was there.”
Only 6:18 remained when he launched himself over the goal line from one yard away, setting off an enthusiastic celebration. Rudisell ran for the conversion and moments later North had a victory that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
“Normally on the bus ride home, we’re like, ‘We coulda done this and we coulda done that.’ Not this time,” Shropshire said. “There were a few things we could have done better, but mostly, it was just a lot of fun. We weren’t worried about anything.”
There is renewed swagger in the North camp this week, thanks largely to Shropshire and his Jekyll-and-Hyde disposition.