During a conversation with a reporter Wednesday morning, Northwestern football standout Ali Shockley mentioned he might try out for the tennis team in the spring.
He hasn’t picked up a racket in a couple of years but figures he’d be a serve-and-volley kind of guy, one that attacks the net. That gels with his football skill-set.
Shockley is a downhill-playing safety that likes to tackle ball-carriers; he did it 26 times during the Trojans’ road win at Dorman two weeks ago. Shockley has 58 stops through three games with no fewer than 16 tackles in each contest.
“I’d like a more even distribution,” said Northwestern defensive coordinator James Martin, who also incidentally coaches the Trojan boys’ tennis team. “But if he’s in the place, I don’t care who’s making tackles, as long as we’re doing it.”
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As a senior you want to step up and be a leader. Be a role model and take charge.
Northwestern senior Ali Shockley
The 6-foot, 185-pound Shockley has been immense for Northwestern (2-1) through the first couple weeks of the regular season headed into Friday’s game at Byrnes. In addition to his tackling, Shockley blocked a field goal last week that teammate D.J. Agurs returned 74 yards for a touchdown, has two pass break-ups and provides invaluable experience in a secondary that - outside of Agurs - is extremely green.
“He’s kind of a coach on the field, helping those guys grow and learn,” said Northwestern coach David Pierce. “He’s coach Martin’s right-hand man.”
Shockley’s highlights against South Meck:
Most that saw 26 tackles next to Shockley’s name after the Dorman game thought it a misprint. David Surratt has kept the Trojans’ defensive stats for over 20 years, but he still had to confirm to Pierce that 26 was correct. But the figure made sense given that Dorman had the ball 17 more minutes than the Trojans and ran 20 more offensive plays. The Cavaliers’ QB continually broke through Northwestern’s front line, leaving Shockley to clean up.
“We’re glad Ali is on our side, we’re glad he’s making tackles,” said Pierce. “But you don’t want your safety making 26 tackles.”
Shockley is following an increasingly distinguished line of hard-hitting safeties under Martin. Corey Seargent played in the Shrine Bowl in 2013 after leading the Trojans in tackles - Pierce called him “The No. 1 Stunner” - and now plays for East Carolina. Miles Corpening started in that role for the Trojans last season, led Northwestern to a state title and played in the Shrine Bowl - like Seargent - and now suits up for Tennessee Tech on Saturdays.
A three-year starter, Shockley was next up.
“He’s got to be our captain on defense and make sure everybody gets lined up,” Martin said. “He’s got to see everything. The other guys have done that in the past and that’s allowed them to shine and be productive, and that’s why they’re playing college ball right now.”
Shockley is interested in kinesiology and would love to play college football at N.C. State or Wake Forest, and major in the subject. He became interested in the treatment of athletic injuries after spraining his knee last December, giving him plenty of time to flip through images of skeletal and muscular systems. He doesn’t have any scholarship offers yet, but Pierce noted that 80 colleges visited Northwestern during spring football and all are aware of Shockley.
To be that guy at the next level you have to learn to break film down, on your own.
Northwestern defensive coordinator James Martin
After a couple of years in the Northwestern program, Shockley is a firm acolyte of individual film study. He has around 30 career starts in the purple and gold, and that coupled with hours spent on the digital film site Hudl has sped up his on-field reaction time. Shockley is having to spend a good chunk of his pre-snap seconds getting his secondary partners in the right position. That leaves less time to read the play in front of him, but the extensive Hudl groundwork has enabled him to decipher what’s happening quicker.
“I’m trying to understand more and be ahead,” he said Wednesday morning. “I’m picking up stuff faster, too.”
Shockley is a calm and quiet figure, traits that will be beneficial on Friday against Byrnes. He’s played there twice in the last two years - both losses. Pierce said the hostile Nixon Field crowd is “pretty passionate about letting you know they don’t want you there,” but Shockley, the future tennis prospect, will be prepared as always.
“It’s a fun atmosphere,” he said. “You try to zone out and just play. Don’t worry about past experiences, worry strictly about the game.”