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Nearing Potential End, Antonio Shelton Reflects On Penn State Football Career

Before his could-be final game in Beaver Stadium, redshirt senior defensive tackle Antonio Shelton reflected upon his time at Penn State and what he learned during his tenure in Happy Valley Wednesday.

Like dozens of seniors on the team, Shelton could stay at Penn State another year thanks to expanded NCAA eligibility. Still, he knows another ride wouldn’t be easy.

“Success isn’t free,” Shelton said. “There’s always something you gotta sacrifice in order to be successful in whatever you want to do.”

Shelton’s five years at Penn State have taught him some valuable lessons. He said his experiences in State College have taken him from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Shelton said he hopes he can shape the next generation of Penn State football.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself since I’ve been here.” Shelton said, “The main thing that I’ve learned is how to be efficient — efficient and organized with everything.”

Arriving at Penn State in 2016, Shelton was not prepared for the rigor of a Division I football program. Coming from Westerville North High School, where he played both sides of the ball, practices tended to be more spur of the moment exercises, and Shelton learned quickly to take note of the detailed approach that is required in the college game. Shelton immediately saw the change of pace when head coach James Franklin showed the detailed practice schedule during the team meetings.

“So when I got here, that’s one thing that I figured out.” Shelton said. “I figured out how to be process-oriented. Little habits.”

Shelton also discovered what hard work truly means. As he progressed through his first set of winter workouts, he quickly realized what it meant to be dedicated to his craft.

He had the upperclassmen in the defensive line room to thank for helping him through those first workouts and collegiate football experiences.

“I had guys like Curt [Cothran], Parker [Cothren], Torrence [Brown], Shareef [Miller], Buck [Ryan Bucholz],” Shelton said. “Guys like that who really taught me how to navigate this.”

All five of those players were a part of the 2016 Big Ten Championship team, which set the tone for Shelton’s career at Penn State. Even though he didn’t play in the game, he said that it defined his career as a Nittany Lion because he saw what it took for his teammates to succeed on the field, and that realization motivated him as he began his playing career the next season.

Although Penn State hasn’t achieved a Big Ten Championship honor since 2016, Shelton believes that his experiences will help shape the younger players coming in, like how his predecessors helped mold him as an 18-year-old freshman.

“It’s easy to identify, like, behaviors that they have that I used to have,” Shelton said regarding his young teammates. “I take it as an opportunity just to educate them and help them out.”

As a fifth-year senior, Shelton relishes learning experiences like this, has taken them to heart, and hopes to pass them down to his teammates as he plays out the final games of this season, and potentially his Penn State career, in the coming weeks. While the coronavirus has partially derailed this season, Shelton remains incredibly thankful for his time in Happy Valley.

“I’m still on top of the world man,” Shelton said. “If little me looked at me right now, I 100% know that little me would be happy.”

Among other things, Shelton mentioned that he is grateful to be the first member of his family to graduate from college, clearly defining the hard work and dedication it took for him to get to where he is today.

Even as he nears the potential finish line, though, Shelton isn’t ready to think about his next steps just yet. He shrugged off a few questions concerning the extra year of eligibility afforded to seniors.

“We’re fortunate that the NCAA gave us the opportunity, but I’m just still really focused on the season right now, Shelton said.

As a leader and stalwart in the defensive line unit, Shelton has racked up 46 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in his Penn State career.

Shelton and the Nittany Lions take on Michigan State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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About the Author

Matt Rudisill

Matt is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism from a little town called Parkesburg in Chester County, PA. He loves all things Phillies and Steelers (don't ask), manages seven fantasy football teams, and listens to the Pat McAfee Show podcast daily. He is an elite wiffleball pitcher and is not afraid to back up that claim. Follow Matt on twitter @mrudy26 for Phillies rants and some other random thoughts!

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