Player Spotlight: Antonio Shelton
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, the junior Antonio Shelton has been a strong presence on the Nittany Lions’ interior defensive front this season, playing alongside fellow junior Robert Windsor. Stepping into his first season as a starter, Shelton has embraced his role as one of the leaders of the defense.
As an upperclassman, he pays special attention to encouraging his teammates verbally and also motivates them to work harder through his tremendous work ethic. A tenacious player and passionate leader, Shelton is shaping up to play a crucial role as a keystone of one of the most promising defenses in the Big Ten.
In their home game against Buffalo last Saturday, Penn State initially struggled to move the ball on offense as well as stop their opponents’ run game in the first half, falling into a 10-7 deficit by halftime. Shelton explained at the team’s weekly press conference on Tuesday how his team rallied in the second half, scoring 38 points against the Bulls while only allowing three in that span.
“I just think in that first half, we didn’t play up to the standard that we set for ourselves on both sides of the ball,” Shelton told reporters. “I think in the second half, we came in, calmed down, and just did what we were supposed to do.”
In addition to being a vocal leader for the team, Antonio Shelton also proved this week that he is not afraid to speak his mind. The defensive standout took to Twitter to react to a disrespectful fan he encountered on Saturday who was shouting demeaning remarks to Shelton’s teammate from the stands.
“I appreciate everybody that came out to support tonight. But some people are becoming too comfortable. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little criticism, but when you become overtly disrespectful, there’s a problem,” Shelton expressed on Twitter. “If you have all the answers, I invite you to get into coaching. Or, come do what we do for a day and then have an opinion.”
Shelton also addressed the incident and his subsequent social media responses at the team’s press conference.
“We appreciate everybody that comes, everybody that watches at home, and everybody that supports us. But, what I was saying was, it’s that time of year where everybody thinks that they know what’s going on on the football field. To a certain degree, if you’ve never played college football at a Division I level, to an extent, you kind of can’t talk about certain things. I like to think I don’t talk about things I don’t know about.”
He went on to further explain the incident with the fan and how the person was yelling at one of his teammates about how to play the game.
When asked about this weekend’s upcoming matchup against Pittsburgh, Shelton said that he and his teammates are staying diligent and focused in their preparation. He stressed that despite all the hype surrounding the spirited in-state rivalry, the Nittany Lions will have the same attitude and focus coming into this game as they would for any opponent.
“An in-state rivalry like this is cool, but what we try to do is approach everything the same way. It’s one game at a time, one day at a time, our goal is to be 1-0 at the end of the game on Saturday," Shelton said. "Some people will make this game a bigger deal than what it is … but we treat every opponent the same.
The defensive tackle showed a lot of respect for the Pitt offense, describing their offensive line as “very sound” and “very well-coached.” He noted that despite their youth and relative lack of experience, they have good leadership through their veteran center and are very competent as a unit.
Shelton expects Pitt to run the ball and try to dominate the line of scrimmage heavily throughout the game, but he has faith that his team will be well prepared to shut down their opponents’ run game.
Look for Shelton to make an impact on defense this Saturday at noon when the Nittany Lions take on their rival Pitt Panthers at Beaver Stadium.
Malcolm Wilson is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.