All-conference tackle balances blocks, books

Shelton eyes career in law, another MEC football championship

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Isaiah Shelton has his last semester in college all mapped out: Spanish 4, independent study, two electives and a class in terrorism that will serve at the heart of his senior thesis and capstone project.

The political science major from Prince George’s County in Maryland will graduate from Shepherd University in December. Shelton plans to take the LSAT in February and applications to law school most certainly will follow next spring.

Senior offensive tackle Isaiah Shelton (No. 70) stretches Saturday before Shepherd’s first preseason scrimmage at Ram Stadium in Shepherdstown. Shelton, a two-time all-conference honoree, has been chosen as a NCAA Division II preseason All-American candidate.

Senior offensive tackle Isaiah Shelton (No. 70) stretches Saturday before
Shepherd’s first preseason scrimmage at Ram Stadium in Shepherdstown. Shelton, a two-time all-conference honoree, has been chosen as a NCAA Division II preseason All-American candidate.

But as the clock ticks down on his undergraduate academic career, the 6-2, 300-pound offensive tackle still wants to make good on those pesky preseason prognostications that see him as an All-American candidate for a Shepherd program picked to return to the NCAA Division II football playoffs with a repeat Mountain East Conference championship.

The Rams are scheduled to open the season Sept. 6 on the road against conference rival West Liberty State. Shepherd, which finished 11-1 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago, was chosen No. 12 in the national American Football Coaches Association preseason top-25 Division II collegiate poll.

“We’ve just got to keep making progress,” Shelton said Saturday following the Rams’ first preseason intra-squad scrimmage. “It’s never as good as you think, but it’s never as bad as you think either.”

Shelton got another taste this summer of what will be required of him to balance his responsibilities this fall, both academic and athletic.

During the day, he interned at the Skinner Law Firm in Charles Town, helping the local firm transition its recordkeeping from hard copy paper to a more easily stored and accessible electronic format. He also helped process wills and powers of attorney.

When he wasn’t working between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or relaxing at his off-campus apartment, he was working out with teammates and strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Overfelt.

“It worked out pretty well for me,” Shelton said. “Just to be in a law atmosphere, it was great. I want to go into law and this was an outstanding opportunity for me.

“I don’t know if I want to be a lawyer per se, but I do want to get my law degree and go from there. See what happens.”

Shelton, a two-time all-conference selection who will begin his third season starting for the Rams, is one of four team captains for 2014, including fellow offensive lineman and senior center Hussam Ouri.

Senior outside linebacker Levi Barber and senior free safety David Carter have been chosen as defensive captains.

Shepherd head coach Monte Cater, entering his 28th season with the program, said this is the first time he can recall both offensive captains being linemen.

Cater said he wasn’t surprised by the team’s decision to elect Shelton as leader.

“He’s locked in and he’s pretty mature,” Cater said. “Even guys who are seniors can fly around a little bit, but he’s really solid in what he wants to do after college. He’s got some tools, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got high hopes for him in whatever he tries to do.

“And our guys see that. He’s going to be a real key for what we do as far as our offense this year.”

Senior guard Dameon Hairston joins Shelton and Ouri as returning starters up front. Junior guard Will Smith, a veteran backup, and newcomer and redshirt freshman tackle Lavonte Hights complete Shepherd’s starting lineup in the trenches.

Offensive line figures to be a point of strength for a Rams’ program that also returns its starting quarterback and two running backs who combined for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns.

“We’ve got some veteran guys who came back, and on the offensive line we’ve got a lot of chemistry,” Shelton said. “We’re going to get the ball rolling.”

Shelton views the preseason accolades and recognition as compliments for both himself and the program as a whole. But he knows how quickly they will fade away if the Rams underperform on the field.

“It’s a blessing, but I just look at it as something that is on paper,” Shelton said. “We want to get through the season and hopefully receive the same recognition and attention at the end.

“Games are played on the field on Saturdays. If you don’t win your games, the preseason rankings don’t mean anything.”

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