*This story was published in our 2014 Football Journal.
Ben Shipman won’t lead the Kossuth band onto the field when the Aggies open the season at Corinth.
But the former Aggies’ drum major will get a hero’s remembrance.
Shipman, 17, was killed in an auto accident in March. His 2015 senior classmates are honoring him with a unique tribute.
“We saw the Batman cleats and thought it would be a good way to kind of honor him,” Kossuth senior lineman Ty Dickson said.
Dickson said Shipman always carried his Batman lunchbox around. So Kossuth’s 13 seniors will wear Under Armour Batman cleats this season.
Dad Ritchie Shipman said the outpouring of support, from visitation to Facebook to people he’d meet on the street, helped ease the loss just a little. A decorated musician, Ben never bragged to Ritchie about helping students with classwork or guiding new band members.
“It was amazing for me to see how many lives he touched,” Ritchie said. “To hear the teachers and kids talk about how much they loved him and how much he helped them, I didn’t know anything about helping kids with work and beginner band. Maybe I took it for granted. It just made my heart grow with how much I loved him.”
Kossuth is a family thing. Mom Trina is an elementary teacher. Daughter Whitney graduated there. Ritchie ran the scoreboard at football games.
Trina admits going to all the games will be tough, but Ritchie says he’ll still be there to support the Aggies “big time” and other family on the team.
“He really loved Kossuth. He loved supporting the football team and all the Aggie sports,” said Trina. “He loved cheering in the stands. It was one of his favorite parts of being drum major.”
Every player’s helmet will have a Batman decal with “Ben” written inside the Batman symbol.
“They wanted to do it in remembrance of him,” Kossuth coach Brian Kelly said. “Great people. It was a tough day for a small school like Kossuth. It is for any school, but it was hard to deal with. He was such a great kid and student, a 4.0, never had a problem out of that kid.”
Shipman tried athletics, Ritchie said. But he found his spot to express his love for Kossuth sports in the band.
“He loved it. He wasn’t really athletic. He tried, but was a little awkward,” Ritchie said, then seemingly smiled over the phone. “He loved football and going to basketball games and when Kossuth went to state in baseball, really got into that. He just loved leading the band, loved being involved.”
Kossuth is home on Aug. 29 against McNairy (Tenn.) Central.
It will be an emotional night for everyone. Trina understandably choked up when talking about Ben. Emotional, but with Batman symbols that clearly reflect the impact her son had – has – on his school.
He left memories, but also a lesson that transcends band and football, and even school.
“Every time you put on your cleats, you remember you never know when it could be over,” Dickson said.
Shipman’s life in Kossuth ended, but there are plenty of signals that show just how much he’ll always be there.