Sam Shields hugs friends and family after coming out of the locker room.

Manhattan High offensive lineman Sam Shields (75) hugs friends and family after coming out of the locker room following the team's 56-0 loss at Derby on Nov. 15. Shields, a Kansas State commit, is blueshirting and will be part of the team's 2021 signing class after enrolling in January.

Sam Shields instantly knew something serious had happened. In the third quarter of Manhattan High’s season opener at Olathe Northwest on Sept. 6, Shields, the team’s star offensive lineman, went down with an injury, needing help from the training staff to get off the field.

The diagnosis: A dislocated shoulder (his left) and a torn labrum.

“I knew right away,” he said, pausing during a phone interview with The Mercury Saturday. “That was the last play of that game.”

That set into motion alterations to both Shields’ recruitment and Kansas State’s 2020 signing class. Shields, who had committed to K-State in April, said the coaching staff approached him after the injury with a proposal:

What do you think about blueshirting?

It’s not as widely known as redshirting, which preserves a fourth year of eligibility for a player, be it because of injury or scant-to-no playing time as a freshman.

Grayshirting also has become part of the college football recruiting lexicon; this involves a player going on scholarship upon their second semester on campus. (In football, this normally always is the spring semester.) They are part-time students the first semester before becoming full-timers after going on scholarship.

Blueshirting is a bit of a hybrid of the other two “shirt colors” in that a player can participate in practice (like a redshirt) but won’t receive a scholarship until later on (like a grayshirt).

As soon as K-State holds its first preseason practice next fall, Shields officially will go on scholarship.

The other requirement to blueshirt: A player can’t be “recruited,” which means:

  • prospects can’t make an official visit to campus;
  • prospects can’t have in-person, off-campus contact with a coach;
  • prospects can’t possess a national letter of intent/written scholarship offer.

Coaches are permitted to contact players during on-campus visits — provided it is an unofficial visit, where the player pays his own way.

As an in-depth article on the subject by SB Nation put it, “Essentially, as long as a recruit doesn’t take an official visit or host one of that school’s coaches, he wasn’t ‘recruited’ by that school.”

Shields’ case was a numbers game for the Wildcats.

Going this route afforded them an opportunity to add another player to their 2020 class while still taking on Shields, who will be a member of the 2021 class but still can practice with the team. (Shields will go on aid beginning in August.)

An injury, in this instance, was a blessing in disguise for K-State.

“It was a pretty severe injury, and I knew it was going to require surgery,” said Shields, whose procedure was performed Nov. 26. “So obviously with the entire starting offensive line graduating this year, they’re going to be really short on guys. ... The reason I (am blueshirting) is so they can add another scholarship offensive lineman to this class.”

Shields said the Wildcats will announce his signing in February. There won’t be another ceremony, though. He already took care of that last week at MHS.

Besides, he’ll already be a K-State student: He’s enrolling in January.

“No, no, no,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not going to have another (signing ceremony). I’ll already be there.”

As for spring practice, Shields said he’ll “for sure” take part in walkthroughs, modified workouts, meetings and anything else an early enrollee might do.

“Hopefully the back end of spring practice, I’ll be able to practice,” he said. “Not really sure yet with timeline and everything.”

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