Penn State Football’s Antonio Shelton Primed To Start And Lead On Defense
Penn State football’s defense lost two key players this offseason when Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens decided to make early departures for the NFL.
But their absence isn’t going to be too much of a setback for Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs, who are expected to be as good as ever in 2019. If anything, it’s an opportunity that will allow other players to step up and shine in the spotlight.
One player in particular who is looking to capitalize on this situation and make an immediate impact for the Nittany Lions is redshirt junior defensive tackle Antonio Shelton, who’s coming off a sophomore season in which he played in all 13 games.
Once the season ended in January, Shelton got right down to business, seeking ways to improve with the hopes of taking on a bigger role for the upcoming season.
“After the winter we always have our meetings with Coach [Spencer] and I asked him ‘What are the specific things I have to do to put myself in the best position I can?'” Shelton said earlier this month at Lift For Life’s media availability. “I feel like I just listened to what he said and I didn’t take it personal.”
Now, Shelton is focused on being more consistent, stronger at the point of attack, and better at making plays on the defensive end.
The 6’2″, 311-pound defensive lineman made one start last season, contributing five solo tackles and assisting on nine, while serving as the backup for Givens and Robert Windsor. With Givens gone, Shelton seems to be the likely option to start in his place alongside Windsor.
But a starting role isn’t the only thing on the horizon for Shelton in 2019.
“Pretty much any older guy that’s been here and been through the storm is pretty much a leader on defense,” Shelton said. “Everybody’s talking about championships here and there, but it’s like a lot of us in this room weren’t here when we won the Big Ten. Some of us that were weren’t really on the field. I at least saw what it took to get there.”
With this sort of experience under his belt, Shelton takes his role as a leader seriously. It’s now up to him and the other veterans on the team to teach the newcomers how to weather the storm that is playing in nine games in the Big Ten.
“We kinda just really wanted to reinforce to the younger guys that this is not easy,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy and the only people that can really control what we do is us.”
The outcome? Shelton has the utmost confidence in his squad to create havoc for opposing offenses and perform under pressure.
“Coach Pry could just not call a play for the whole game, but if we refuse to get scored on — you know what I’m saying — we win the game.”
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Roll your eyes all you want. This is a “We Are” moment if I’ve ever seen one.
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