Before Ryan Goodisky became the athletic director at Marion, he was an assistant football coach at Mount Vernon.
About a decade ago, Goodisky and the Rams got a first-hand look at the skill and toughness of Wildcats running back Shekeil Ivy.
“We had an all-state linebacker and he got a good lick on Shekeil,” Goodisky said. “He cracked him right on the leg. Shekeil shakes it off and breaks into the open, but he’s limping. He ran 80 yards for a touchdown.
“Later, we found out he broke his leg. He ran 80 yards for a touchdown on a broken leg.”
Whether he had one good leg or two, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ivy was a handful for opposing defenses. The 2010 Southern Illinoisan Player of the Year as a junior, Ivy collected 1,884 yards and 26 touchdowns that year, running behind an experienced and skilled offensive line.
Coach Kerry Martin knew of Ivy’s potential coming into the year. Ivy excelled in part-time duty as a sophomore in 2009, but blossomed the following year when he became a starter and began averaging about 20 carries a game.
“He was a really complete running back,” Martin said. “He was a tough kid who was also a good pass receiver and developed into a good blocker. He could always run the ball inside or outside, but worked to be a complete player.”
Ivy’s mark from 2010 remains the single-season rushing record at Marion. He helped the Wildcats go 9-2 and earn a trip to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs, part of the program’s streak of 15 straight playoff seasons.
Like most running backs, Ivy credits the guys fronting for him for his success.
“I was playing with the best offensive line in the state,” he said. “They were really good. They knew how to open holes and get me where I needed to go. If I didn’t have them that year, I wouldn’t have done as well.”
On the rare instances where the line didn’t create a crease for Ivy, he simply made his own. Martin still remembers a particular run in a game with Harrisburg that illustrated Ivy’s strength and ability to plow through defenders.
“I think every Harrisburg kid got a shot at him on one play and the pile of bodies kept moving down the field,” marveled Martin. “I think of the tenacity he ran with, but he also understood the game. He didn’t get impatient.”
Ivy was such a dominant figure that Martin even added some I-formation plays to his usual spread attack to take advantage of his ability.
“Everyone knew we were coming downhill with him,” Martin said. “If they stopped him early, he didn’t let it get to his head. He knew over time, those yards would come. Those 1 or 2-yard gains would become 5, 6 and 8-yard gains. Then he’d take one to the house.”
Ivy’s patience as a running back has transferred over to his life after high school. He became a father and worked a variety of jobs to provide for his child. Last December, Ivy found the job that he now refers to as his calling.
He presently works for the Navy in Norfolk, Va. as a Hull Technician. His multiple tasks include valve installation and repair, as well as shipboard plumbing and repairing small boats. Simply put, he’s a jack of all trades, just as he was during his football career.
“I wanted to join the Navy out of high school, but wasn’t sure if I could do it while being a dad,” he said. “I finally went ahead and joined last year, and I feel like it’s the best decision I’ve made my entire life. I’m part of something that’s bigger than I am, and that means a lot.”
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