By Rob Patrick
One of the hallmarks of the Bryant Hornets head football program under head coach[more] Paul Calley involves how a player and a team respond to adversity. Do you let it get you down? Do you give up? Or do you react in a positive, productive way? Do you bear down that much harder, keep giving it your best and never give?
Every Bryant player has heard the talk and the expectations are always there. Calley wants to see something from his players, the young men in his charge. And it’s something called character.
Well, in future years, when things are not going the Hornets’ way, when “the team is up against it — and the breaks are beating the boys,” Calley will have a new, living, full-scale model to point to as an example of the way he wants his players to respond.
His name is Ian Shuttleworth.
His struggle with cancer after he was stricken between his sophomore and junior seasons at Bryant High School has been well chronicled. In itself, it’s an inspiration. The way he and his family tackled the challenge, relying on faith, family and friends heightened that further.
And now, on Wednesday, Feb. 6, National signing day, the remarkable fact that Shuttleworth came back to become an all-state offensive tackle, a team leader, a statewide award-winner, an all-star, got ratcheted up yet another notch when he officially agreed to continue his football career and his education on scholarship at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
“Ian has been through so much,” Calley said Wednesday. “He’s someone that’s overcome tremendous obstacles to succeed in the game of football.”
Calley, who coaches the offensive line, became emotional when he talked about Shuttleworth’s determination to be at practice even when he was in the midst of treatment.
“There were days when, you could look at him, and say, ‘Oh, gosh, he doesn’t feel real good.’ But he was there every day,” the coach related.
"When I thought we were going to have to play his junior year without him, I really struggled with it,” he continued. “But, man, he came back with a tremendous attitude and the desire to be the best that he can be. He led the offensive line. Even as a junior, I felt like he was the leader by example. Then, this last year, he was a vocal leader.”
“There’s been some low points,” Shuttleworth acknowledged. “But, the thing is, the feeling of the low points gets taken away by the feeling of the high points I get whenever I do overcome stuff, when I do succeed. The feeling of succeeding is so much more in a lot of ways than the low points in life. It’s that type of thing that makes me work harder and achieve those goals.
“There are so many people that have it worse than I had it, that didn’t even get the chance to go to a practice,” he explained. “So, if I had a chance to even go to a practice, then I better take care of that business and do it.”
The cancer, which was eradicated by those treatments, didn’t dampen his dream to play college football.
“I never lost it,” he said. “The time that I knew it was going to happen was last year when I saw Dylan Winfrey sign. I knew from that moment that, one year from now, I was going to be on the stage signing. That’s when I looked at the person sitting beside me and said, ‘I’m going to be there next year.’”
Shuttleworth chose Tech over Henderson State University.
“My parents always said, it was 95 percent me and 5 percent them on where I went,” he said. “I took all the different trips around to all the different colleges in the state and Arkansas Tech was the place I felt most comfortable from the coaches to the players I met there, to the facilities, everything about it. I loved it.”
The coaches, said Shuttleworth, left the door open on his prospects of playing as a freshman.
“It’s pretty much what I make of it,” he commented. “If I go in there and compete, they’re going to play the best player and that’s what I look to do. I’m coming to win a starting position. Why wouldn’t you? Go in, work your hardest and whatever works out that’s what works out.”
Shuttleworth had just returned from attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans, something he got to do thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation.
“The craziest time I’ve ever had in my life,” he said with a grin. “It was living every football fans’ dream, really. Going to the Super Bowl, that’s wild. It was an amazing game to be at, just the game alone. The people there in town were the nicest people on earth.”
And, no doubt, all those who met him were impressed. They would not be the first. Shuttleworth’s compelling saga has brought him some notoriety and he knows he’s now an inspiration and a positive example to others.
“It’s not something that I looked to be but it’s something I kind of took the role as,” he allowed. “I look to be an example for people now and to be the type of person that people can look up to and strive to be like. That’s the type of thing that won’t ever stop. I have to keep on trying to be better, trying to work harder, trying to help more people.
“It’s the kind of things I still look up to other people for,” he concluded. “That’s the type of person I want to be.”