Shakespeare In pursuit of an Auburn football dream

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*From Auburn Athletics Department*

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN - Summer is anything but vacation time for Auburn football players. There are grueling workouts with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell. There are player-run practices. And there are classes and study halls.

For senior running back Chandler Shakespeare, who graduated in May and is working on a master's degree, it doesn't end there. He works two jobs to help pay for school. For three seasons, he's been an Auburn walk-on.

Whether he's at his retail job at the Village Mall or learning about business at Rick's Appliances in Opelika or going through workouts or studying, Shakespeare doesn't have a lot of free time. But he continues his dogged pursuit of a long-held goal.

"I just hope to see the field," Shakespeare said.

It's been Shakespeare's dream since he was a little boy to play in a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He's gotten carries in scrimmages and in A-Day games. But his name has not been called on a Saturday. His time is running short.

Shakespeare was two-year All-County running back at Oxford High School and a member of the National Honor Society. But he attracted little recruiting interest from big-time schools. He signed with Division II Delta State and tried to put his Auburn dream behind him. But it wouldn't go away.

"Really, it was kind of easy (at Delta State)," Shakespeare said. "I felt like I was letting myself down, because Auburn was my dream school. I said `I don't care if I have to work or whatever, I want to play for Auburn.' So I left there and came home."

Shakespeare reached out to Auburn coaches and was told he would be welcome. He went junior college for a semester, had two jobs in the summer and walked on at Auburn.

Already, he's become the first member of his family to graduate from college, earning a degree in business management. He is seeking a master's degree in adult education. He hopes to put his football experience to work.

"Hopefully, I can get on somebody's coaching staff," Shakespeare said. "I'll try to be a graduate assistant or go ahead and work and maybe own my own business. I'd like to try coaching first."

Shakespeare and other walk-ons have the respect of offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who battled injuries as an Arkansas quarterback and also worked for an opportunity that never came.

"I think I can identify with them to a degree," Lashlee said. "We give them equal opportunity and don't treat them any different."

Shakespeare admits there have been times when he wondered if it was worth it. He always decided it was. He says, regardless of what happens in the coming season, he will leave with no regrets.

"I look at the positive side of what I've learned from and the overall experience," Shakespeare said. "I think that outweighs everything else."

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