By Zach Adams
Itawamba County Times
DORSEY – As the time ticked off in the second half of the Dorsey and Belmont boys basketball game last Thursday, a group of six or seven Belmont girls inched towards a guy standing beside the Dorsey bleachers.
“Is that him?” one of the the girls asked the group. “I don’t know, why don’t you just ask him,” responded another. So she did.
“Are you that Mississippi State running back, Ashton Shumpert?” the girl asked meekly.
The man smiled warmly and nodded. “I am,” he said.
The girls giggled and asked to take a photo with him, and soon there was a line that took several minutes to clear out.
That type of situation is becoming pretty normal in the life of Shumpert, a former four-star running back from Itawamba AHS and now freshman at Mississippi State who rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns this season for the Bulldogs.
“I had to get used to it,” a smiling Shumpert said about his local celebrity status. “At first I didn’t like it, everybody just coming up to me, but it is all right now.”
As a senior in high school, it was not uncommon to see Shumpert sitting alone at a basketball game or with maybe a friend or two. He was fairly insulated in Fulton.
Now, however, he is a highly regarded member of an SEC school that has been to four straight bowl games.
“It has been everything I thought it was going to be, plus so much more,” Shumpert said. “I thought I was ready for the college life, and I kind of was, but you have to get used to every thing involved with class, school and football all at the same time. It was crazy at first, but it’s all good now.”
Part of a crowded backfield that included LaDarius Perkins, Josh Robinson, Derrick Milton and Nick Griffin, many expected Shumpert to redshirt his freshman season. The coaching staff thought different, and Shumpert contributed this season in a position that was perhaps the team’s deepest. Now, heading into the offseason, Shumpert is looking to take his game to the next level.
“I haven’t finished a full year yet because I haven’t done the spring, but just the summer and the season was enough,” he said with a laugh. “They say the spring will help me a lot, so I’m ready for it.
“I want to improve my technique,” he added. “In high school I could just run around everybody, but up there you have got to use speed and power in the right ways. I had to get used to getting low and stuff like that.”
Shumpert downplayed the feeling he got when scoring his first collegiate touchdown, but he did recall something about his third. The Bulldogs were tied 7-7 in the second quarter with Rice at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis when Shumpert plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out to give his team the lead.
But instead of celebrating, the freshman was upset.
“Everybody was asking me why I wasn’t happy when I scored in the bowl game,” Shumpert said. “It was because I had messed up on the play before and I was thinking about that.”
With his seemingly unselfish attitude and strong work ethic, Shumpert has a chance to have a breakout season for the Bulldogs in 2014, especially with Milton’s recent transfer. If that happens, Shumpert is likely to have to wear a disguise to keep from getting mobbed around Starkville and in Bulldog country.
But in Dorsey, it’s a different story. There he will always just be Ashton.
This story originally appeared in the Jan. 15 edition of the Itawamba County Times.