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After A.Q. Shipley's NFL Success, Michal Menet Has Clear Path To Follow

Penn State centers were chosen in seventh round 12 years apart

Michal Menet hopes to outplay his draft status, much like former Cardinal and Penn State center A.Q. Shipley
Michal Menet hopes to outplay his draft status, much like former Cardinal and Penn State center A.Q. Shipley

Penn State center Michal Menet lasted until the seventh round of the NFL draft on Saturday because of perceived athletic deficiencies.

An pre-draft write-up said the Cardinals' final draft pick had 'stubby arms' and 'heavy feet,' which sounds more like a Tyrannosaurus Rex than a football player.

In 2009, there were similar doubts about a Penn State center who went in the seventh round to the Steelers -- and Menet should study that player's journey closely, because A.Q. Shipley proved projections can be just that.

"Would I have loved to be a first-round pick? I mean, yeah,'" Shipley said on Wednesday from Tampa, where he has transitioned from player to an offensive assistant coach with the Buccaneers. "But looking back 12 years later on my journey, it was almost sweeter the way I had to carve it out. I think there were six centers drafted ahead of me, and I outlasted all of them but (Alex Mack)."

After bouncing around on practice squads for the first three years of his career, Shipley went on to start 72 career games, including all 16 for the Cardinals in 2016, 2017 and 2019. He was the starting center for the title-winning Bucs in 2020 before a November neck injury forced him into retirement.

Menet was in attendance when Shipley, then a member of the Cardinals, spoke to his alma mater prior to its Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2017.

"He told his story, what all he went through to get there in his career," Menet said. "I think it just goes to show that it really doesn't matter where you're drafted. It just matters what you bring to a team, what you bring to an organization, what you're willing to do every day to improve. That's been my main focus. Show up every day with the mentality of trying to get better."

As the rookies prepare to embark on their ever-important first offseason, Shipley said the mental part will be integral for Menet. Shipley said "it's hard not to read" all the pre-draft critiques, but that Menet should put that behind him now and focus on making a good early impression.

"My advice would be to study your ass off," Shipley said. "Anything that may be a shortcoming that was perceived, you can always overcome that by being smarter, studying the playbook and knowing it inside and out. If from now until training camp you grind away at the mental side of the game, you can overcome physical things."

Menet was a three-year starter and two-time captain with the Nittany Lions. General Manager Steve Keim said the intangibles a player brings can sometimes cover up any limitations.

"When you get to the sixth, seventh round, we know that there are sometimes holes in players athletically, skillset-wise," Keim said. "Maybe they're not developed. There's a reason why they're generally there. They maybe don't have the size or the requirements for that position.

"We looked at the big picture and said, 'This guy has all the qualities you look for in terms of leadership, smarts, instincts, passion for the game.' And then he's got quickness. He's got intangibles. So, those are the things we really felt strong about and why we selected him in that position."

Menet will need to battle to make the 53-man roster this offseason. The Cardinals just traded for Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, and have Lamont Gaillard and Max Garcia as other options at center. Menet has been told by the Cardinals versatility is important and he'll need to learn the guard position as well, but Justin Pugh, Brian Winters and Justin Murray sit atop the depth chart there, with Gaillard and Garcia also capable at the position.

He's already been welcomed to the offensive line via group chat, with some niceties and some traditional rookie responsibilities.

"Guys are sending me some snack orders that I'll (have to) get when I get out to Arizona," Menet said with a smile.

Menet hopes to one day be on the other side of things – a grizzled vet making requests to rookies like the shift Shipley made.

"Early on, people said I wouldn't be able to last," Shipley said. "I just chose to ignore, prove wrong and just keep fighting, and 12 years later, there I was."

As a fellow Nittany Lion, Shipley will be rooting for Menet to do the same.

"He's got a lot of people at his back," Shipley said. "It's a great university with a heck of a fanbase. He'll have strong support across the country. Enjoy it, and get to work."

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