Brainy offensive lineman Maurice Shelton engineers rise from from backup to starter
COLLEGE PARK — As a high school senior at nearby Eleanor Roosevelt, Maurice Shelton made some unusual recruiting trips for a 6-foot-2, 290-pound offensive lineman.
Among the schools Shelton and his family visited were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon. Maryland was interested in Shelton, too, but as a budding electrical engineer rather than a football player.
Five years later, Shelton is the Terps’ starting right guard, ahead of true freshman Terrance Davis, the highest-rated prospect in coach DJ Durkin’s first recruiting class. Shelton’s rise from little-used backup to starter doesn’t surprise Durkin.
“Mo is one of those guys; he does whatever you ask him,” Durkin said Tuesday. “He always just kind of shows up. I don’t know if you can say he’s our best [offensive lineman] at any certain thing, but he’s good at all of it.
“It’s a testament to his work ethic, his determination, his attitude. He really stood out to me and our staff early on as a guy that’s a worker. He does what you ask him, and he does it as hard as he can.”
Back in high school, Shelton might have considered going to MIT, but he was not accepted. So it came down to Carnegie Mellon and Maryland.
“One of the big reasons I chose Maryland is because I had an academic scholarship,” said Shelton, who graduated in the spring with a 3.4 GPA. “Now it’s like a fifth year on scholarship.” The academic scholarship expired once Shelton graduated. But he had a year of athletic eligibility remaining, and he planned to attend graduate school and stay with the Terps.
Before the start of preseason practice in August, Durkin surprised the former preferred walk-on with an athletic grant.
“After we ran the conditioning test, we Saturday, 7 p.m. TV: CBS Sports Network Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Maryland by 9
had a dinner and we had a team meeting after that,” Shelton said. “Coach Durkin started talking. ‘This guy’s been in Champions Club three times now.’ I wasn’t sure who he was talking about.”
When Durkin finished by saying, “Maurice Shelton, you’re now on scholarship,” the room exploded for a player sophomore safety Darnell Savage called “the friendliest guy” on the team.
“Everybody stood up and was cheering. Everybody was, like, jumping on me, patting my back and stuff,” Shelton said. “It was a good feeling.”
It was only the prelude to what happened during preseason practice in August: The now 6-3, 305-pound lineman won a starting job. He’s one of three former walk-ons, along with fellow senior Michael Dunn and redshirt junior Mike Minter (Severna Park), who will start Saturday at Central Florida.
Shelton’s emergence doesn’t surprise his father, Del, who has seen his oldest son adjust to a variety of challenges, including skipping the fifth grade.
“He’s always been a team guy. It’s always been, ‘What can I do to help the team?,’ ” Del Shelton said. “Be that guy on the practice squad, hold the towels and the guys’ drinks, what have you. Wait his turn and work hard, that’s what he did. He was so patient. He was so positive all the time. He finally got his opportunity and took advantage of it.”
The younger Shelton credits the two years he spent as a backup for helping him get to where he is now.
“I’ve just been trying to do what I could to improve behind the guys that we had — Andrew Zeller, [Evan] Mulrooney, [Stephen] Grommer, [Ryan] Doyle,” he said. “They were all good players. I was just trying to learn from their game and see what I could take away and improve my game. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to take up the mantle now and see if all this work pays off.”
One of Maurice’s brothers, Martice, 20, is a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy. The other, Marlon, 19, is a sophomore computerscience major at Maryland.
Del Shelton, a retired naval officer who sells real estate, said Maurice has tried to change from “an academic guy to an athletic guy” during his college career.
“He was determined to make himself into a better athlete, and he just stuck with it through hard work and determination,” said Shelton, who met his wife, Keiko, when he was stationed in Japan, where all their sons were born.
“In college football, a freshman coming in, it’s hard for them to outpower somebody who’s three or four years older than him. Now he’s able to come into his man body and stand them up. They’re not tougher than him; they’re not smarter than him.”
Maurice Shelton believes his demanding academic major has helped his development in football.
“Definitely, you learn good study habits in terms of being that kind of student and then carrying them over to football,” said Shelton, who has been an Academic All-Big Ten Conference selection the past two years. “The way I learned [academically] is similar to the way I learn football. It’s just like repetition. … Football is a different type of smart, but in preparation, you have to see what the look is and what the coaches tell you and kind of apply it week by week.”
Del Shelton thinks about what might have happened had his son been accepted to MIT after earning better than a 4.0 GPA in high school.
“How about they recruit you to play football and you don’t even get into the school?” the elder Shelton said with a laugh. “I’m happier that it turned out the way it did because I think he’s happier playing football for Maryland than playing for MIT. It’s more of an accomplishment.”