All he wants is to be remembered as is the guy who made the right choices off the field.
What most will remember is what he did on it.
There were not many positives to reflect on at the conclusion of the 2010 Bellarmine-Jefferson High football season. The Guards produced a paltry 2-8 final record. They lost their last game, at Salesian, by 50 points.
Six players were shuffled in to help with quarterbacking duties. The offense was overhauled repeatedly. One of their two wins was dampened by a season-ending injury to Joshua Martinez, a would-be vital component at running back and corner back.
“It was a tough, tough season,” Bell-Jeff Coach Rolando Aguirre said. “my toughest season as a coach.”
However, all the doom and gloom and all the consistent inconsistencies could not eclipse the luminous contributions of one — Micah Shirley.
The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Shirley, a senior, solidified himself among the greats who ever played for Bell-Jeff. Whether at wide receiver, running back or free safety, when the Guards needed a play, they most often looked to No. 22.
And rarely did he fail to deliver.
“He was the catalyst,” Aguirre said. “His value was second to none. He was the top gun.”
The numbers support the sentiment.
Shirley, who has played football since he was 5, rushed for a Santa Fe league-best 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging more than 10 yards a carry. He had 24 receptions for 402 yards and eight touchdowns.
As a quarterback in the wildcat offense, Shirley passed for 200 yards and a touchdown. And, while leading the league in scoring, he threw just one interception and had just one fumble.
On defense, Shirley totaled 122 tackles, a sack, three fumble recoveries and four interceptions.
“He’s the fastest kid in the Santa Fe league,” Aguirre declared.
Shirley’s football brilliance first emerged, according to Aguirre, during a game against Frazier Mountain his sophomore year. Bell-Jeff had given up the lead in the final minute of the game. Aguirre called a timeout and dialed up a play for his budding game-breaker.
Quarterback Daniel Radoccia threw a clutch, game-clinching touchdown pass to Shirley, one of many to come.
“Then, I knew he was going to be the guy,” Aguirre recalled.
As a senior, Shirley was called upon to carry the team, which struggled to find supplemental impact players.
“It was very frustrating at the beginning,” Shirley said. “But after a while, I got use to it.”
“Micah was pretty much on his own,” Aguirre said.
There were times where Aguirre pulled a discouraged Shirley aside to offer guidance. Shirley’s competitive nature is distinct. That attribute, and his raw speed, are what Aguirre says he will miss the most.
“ ‘Micah, not everyone can play like you,’ “Aguirre would say. “He gets upset when other people are not on the same page as he is.”
Shirley admits he can be demanding sometimes, and he expects a lot from teammates.
“I just basically ask too much of some people,” Shirley said. “I’d probably seen them do it a million times. I knew they could do it…We had a good team. We just needed to believe in ourselves a little bit more.”
Shirley believes the team lacked a certain mindset which equated to losing the games they did.
The senior doesn’t earn praise from his coach for being a vocal leader.
“He’s real quiet,” Aguirre said. “He’s not that ‘rah-rah’ kid.”
Instead, Shirley prefers to go with “just letting your game talk,” and said he gets fired up before games by watching videos of NFL stars Ray Lewis and Adrian Peterson.
Shirley’s high school athletic career isn’t over just yet. Along with being a football standout, he also plays guard and forward for the Bell-Jeff basketball team. And that season has just begun.
Last year, the Guards basketball team finished 19-6 and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VA quarterfinals.
First-year Coach Julian Andrade is replacing former coach Bryan Camacho, and he said likes what Shirley brings to the basketball court.
“He’s kind of a coach’s dream,” Andrade said. “We always want that guy that’s running through that wall with you.”
Though Andrade has had only a short time since football season ended to work with Shirley, he sais he is impressed with his talents.
“He should definitely be a major contributor to this team. He has a good mid-range game. He’s just all around in all areas,” Andrade said.
Andrade admits his job will be helping Shirley reach his full potential as a basketball player.
“We don’t know how good he can be,” Andrade said.
Thus far, Shirley has been impressed with his new coach.
“He knows a lot,” Shirley said. “We just need to buy in. We want to go deep [in the playoffs] this year to show how good we really are.”
After his career at Bell-Jeff comes to a close, Shirley will likely go on to play college football. He’s being recruited to play free safety or receiver by the likes of Colorado, Utah, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, BYU and Northern Arizona.
“No doubt he should be playing at the next level,” Aguirre said.
Shirley said his college decision will definitely hinge on geographical factors.
“I don’t want to be too far from home,” said Shirley, whose brother, Andrew, played basketball for Bell-Jeff and his father, Kirk, played football for North Hollywood High.
Although a collegiate career in football is something Shirley would welcome, there is something inherently more important in his life — his family. An it is that close family atmosphere that has helped him become a success in athletics.
“My family just brought me up pretty well,” Shirley said. “I didn’t have to go through a lot of stuff other people had to. I know players who got involved with drugs and alcohol. I tried to learn from them.”
That is something Shirley is proud of.