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Q&A: Clemson’s Will Shipley is determined ‘to switch that narrative’ around NIL

Will Shipley
Photo credit: Clemson Athletics

Only one current college running back can put himself on a list with New York Giants star Saquon Barkley, San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey and USC legend Reggie Bush. His name is Will Shipley.

The Clemson sophomore recently wrapped up a season that included 1,150+ rushing yards, 200+ receiving yards and 300+ kick return yards. He also became the first player in ACC history to earn first-team All-Conference honors at three different positions.

In doing so, Shipley put himself into a conversation with the elite running backs of the past two decades and is head coach Dabo Swinney’s most dangerous weapon heading into next year, where they are once again expected to compete for a national championship.

However, it is off the field where Shipley’s impact is being most felt.

In a NIL partnership with Clemson-focused NIL collective, TigerImpact, Shipley has tightened his relationship with Levine Children’s Hospital. Over the past year, Shipley has been regularly visiting the hospital and building relationships with the kids and doctors. He also donated $10,000 of his own money.

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“I’ll go visit as many patients as I can to brighten their day and give them a couple of minutes where they can take themselves out of that hospital bed and just have a normal conversation,” Shipley told The NIL Deal in an exclusive interview. “I try to always leave the room with a smile on their face as well as mine. And it always happens like that.”

In collaboration with teammate K.J. Henry, Shipley also co-founded the “1 CLEM5ON” endowment, donating five figures in November 2022 to benefit Clemson University’s Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center and Clemson Athletics’ “Hear Her Roar” campaign.

With all of his charitable work and production on the field, the former five-star recruit from Weddington, North Carolina has also been recognized as a second-team Academic All-American. Tally that, along with NIL deals with United Bank and Hendrick Honda in Easley, South Carolina, the Tigers running back has had a full plate in his two years as a student-athlete.

In a recent interview with The NIL Deal, Shipley discussed his ability to use his platform to give back to the community, the process in finding NIL deals that fit into what he believes in, and his life as a student-athlete at Clemson.

The NIL Deal: What is some of the work you’ve done with Levine Children’s Hospital?

Shipley: “I’ve been working with Levine a little before TigerImpact, but they’ve really allowed me to level up within what I do with the hospital. My last couple visits, I visited all the floors that were available with COVID protocols still going around. I’ll go and visit as many patients as I can just try to brighten their day to just give them a couple of minutes where they can take themselves out of that hospital bed and just have a normal conversation. I try to always leave the room with a smile on their face as well as mine. And it always happens like that. I also donate all the money earned through my NIL deal to Levine Children’s Hospital. Last year was a $10,000 donation. This year we are looking to up the ante a little bit so we’ll see what we can come up with. I’m really looking forward to that donation as well. Just really pumped and I love being able to work with them.”

The NIL Deal: How has TigerImpact allowed you to strengthen this relationship with Levine Children’s Hospital?

Shipley: “It allows me to engage my social media platform with all my followers and get them to really align with what I believe and feel. I’m not only engaging with my followers, but they’re able to now connect with something bigger than just my social media. I think that’s what TigerImpact has allowed me to do. To put the word out, get more people to know more about Levine. Then, the financial part of it, they’ve allowed me to give back and be able to help in a different way as well.”

The NIL Deal: How has TigerImpact helped Clemson students make a difference in the community with the different charities they have helped student-athletes partner with?

Shipley: “You see it in everybody that’s involved with the program. We’re making a difference because we have a platform, we have a little oomph behind our name and I think that goes a long way. So to be able to brighten some kids’ days and not only kids, but I know there’s animal shelters and all kinds of organizations that people are partnered with. So to be able to level up those brands as well and to be able to help them and their efforts.”

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The NIL Deal: How have collectives helped student-athletes navigate the NIL space?

Shipley: “It’s a safe way to get student-athletes the money that we deserve through our name, image and likeness, but also partner with really good people and organizations that we can help. Not only help them, but also make it public and be able to make a good reputation around NIL and how collectives work.”

The NIL Deal: How do you think you can give NIL a better reputation in terms of getting the good word out and all of the opportunities that it gives student-athletes?

Shipley: “It’s unbelievable what you can do with your platform. I think the reputation within NIL is that all these college athletes are selfish and we want to get paid for what we do. I think that we need to switch that narrative. We want to be able to use our platform and if financial compensation is a part of it, then that’s what it is. We’re able to use that platform to then help others not only in our communities, but throughout our social media community. Shaping the youth is so important, you see all across college football and really all college sports there’s people on TikTok and they have such huge followings and these kids are truly looking up to these people as role models. So you have to carry yourself in a way because all your actions do play a role. It is why you have to watch every step that you take because you want to set off a good vibe and be a good role model for the youth and the people that watch you.”

The NIL Deal: What are some other NIL deals that you currently have?

Shipley: “I’ve got one with United Bank which I’m really happy about. They’ve helped me a ton. I’m doing a lot of upcoming financial literacy sessions, really trying to go throughout the Clemson and Greenville areas and get involved in the youth and just try to get financial literacy into them at an early age. I’ve also done a deal with Hendrick Automotive here in Easley, SC. It’s been great with them, being able to go through the car buying process and learn that at a young age. What I really want to align with my NIL reputation is that I want to get something out of every deal that I do. I’m not just looking for financial compensation. I want to truly level up myself and to be able to go through the car buying process and for United Bank to be able to help me with looking into buying a house. To learn that at such an early age is going to pay off down the road.”

The NIL Deal: How do you see NIL continuing to grow and benefit student-athletes?

Shipley: “Like everything, it matures and new ideas come about so I think we’ll be seeing a lot more stuff with NIL. People forget how young it still is. So a lot more ideas, a lot more volume, and a little bit of craziness. That’s where it’s going. There’s always good out there and that’s what we’ve got to look for and try to represent. Just always try to help people and you can’t go wrong if that’s your main goal.”

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The NIL Deal: You were part of a really small collection of great college running backs. Clemson great, CJ Spiller was also on this list of rushing, receiving, and return yards. What does it mean to be now in the conversation with the great college running backs of the past 25 years?

Shipley: “Shout out to Ross Taylor, our Assistant Athletic Director for football, for all the crazy information that he’s able to pull. Just to see that, I was honestly really amazed by that. I personally think that and then maybe some of the ACC accolades, being the first to be named to three ACC first teams. Those two are probably the most memorable accolades that I have at Clemson this far. Just being in that group with that list, including my coach, Coach Spiller who I look up to, it’s crazy, because he’s a role model to me. So just to be associated with a room of great backs is awesome, but I’ve got a lot more work to do.”

The NIL Deal: I saw you and your brother retweet a list by ProFootballFocus that left you off the top 10 running backs in college football going into next year. How does that add extra motivation during the offseason and spring football as you continue to prepare for the upcoming season?

Shipley: “I had a lot of people bring that to my attention. I personally don’t have much to say about it. I understand how all that stuff goes but my goals remain the same. That stuff doesn’t affect me. It definitely adds fuel to the fire there’s no question. That’s an engrained picture in my head and it’s something I’ll use 1,000%. I think I do all my proving on the field and I’ll try to keep it that way.”

The NIL Deal: Who is your favorite player in the NFL right now or someone that you idolize your game after?

Shipley: “It may be cliche, but I have to go with Christian McCaffrey. That’s my dog. Sad that he got traded away from my hometown Carolina Panthers, but was really happy to see how successful he was on the San Francisco 49ers. Nobody deserves it more. All the injuries and all the doubters, but he came back and had a great year. I’d say that’s definitely my favorite player. He’s a role model on the field. How he’s played, in my opinion, probably the best back in the last five years, he’s dominated the league when he’s been healthy. Then also just how he carries himself off the field. Who he is as a man, how hard he works. It’s just something that I want to be able to incorporate with how I work as well.”

The NIL Deal: Do you have a favorite artist that you listen to before games?

Shipley: “Definitely Mac Miller. If I had to throw a song out there I’d go ‘Weekend featuring Miguel’ just because I’ve been listening to it for years now. But just really shuffle Mac and let it go.”

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The NIL Deal: What’s your pregame meal before game time?

Shipley: “I usually stick to chicken breasts, some pasta with a little bit of meat. Just trying to get some carbs in and get ready to go.”

The NIL Deal: Final thoughts?

Shipley: “For Levine Children’s Hospital, I really appreciate my relationship with Dr. Drew Herman. He’s incredible. What he’s been able to do in our relationship. With ideas and everything that involved me being able to help, I really appreciate that relationship and everybody that is a part of it. A lot of it goes unnoticed. They help those kids every day and all they try to do is bring a smile to their face. With TigerImpact a huge shout out to Kendall Alley, he’s been a friend since I got to Clemson and he’s been awesome. He’s one of the founders of TigerImpact. He’s helped me get involved with it. And just everybody that’s involved with it. They do such a great job with just empowering the platforms of athletes.”