Brainy of­fen­sive line­man Mau­rice Shel­ton engi­neers rise from from backup to starter

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

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.”

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