StatTiger: Q&A With Chris Shelling

Former Auburn football standout Chris Shelling, who is now coaching college football, answers questions about his career and his time at Auburn.

Editor's Note: columnist Stuart Carter (StatTiger) did this interview with former Auburn football standout Chris Shelling, who played for the Tigers from 1991-94. Shelling recorded 269 tackles and made 11 interceptions at Auburn. He played for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL as well as the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe where he played on the league championship team in 1998. Shelling also played in the XFL in 2001. He finished his playing career with six seasons in the Canadian Football League where he twice earned CFL All-star status and played on the Grey Cup champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1999. Shelling began his coaching career at Carver High in his hometown, Columbus, Ga., and coaches the secondary at Northeast Mississippi Junior College.

How is your secondary shaping up for this season?

"Well,l I have two really good safeties this year and our corners look better than last year so I'm really excited about this season. I believe we have a better team than last year."

Is this is your second season at Northeast Mississippi?

"Yep, this is my second year at Northeast Mississippi and I was a grad assistant at Troy before that."

How long were you at Troy?

"Just one year."

Is your team's season-opener this Thursday?

"Yes, the 27th. We just had a mock-scrimmage and it went really well. We open up with Hinds."

When it comes to junior colleges, some of the best football programs are generally believed to be in the state of Mississippi. Would you say this is a fair assessment?

"Yes, I really do, especially in the South. Down South, there is a lot of talent and many of the players go on to play in the SEC or ACC."

As a player your last season was in 1994. Now as a coach, how much of the game would you say has changed since you were a player?

"The game isn't as physical as it was when I was playing. They are passing more and the offenses aren't as physical in the SEC like back in the day. It's more of a short passing game, getting the ball out quickly to the receivers, making plays in space. It's more of a finesse game."

Would you say the overall speed of the game is faster than during your playing days?

"Definitely…no doubt. Everybody is fast in the conference."

What inspired you to get into coaching?

"It's the game itself--just the love of the game. I've always been around it and even when I played I was more of a players' coach. Most of the coaches I played for like Jack Hines (former Auburn assistant) always stressed helping the guys around you.

"I was always trying to help the young guys, even when I played pro ball. I always felt like I had a knack for the game and I just couldn't stay away from it.

"Even when I worked at the Boys Club in Phenix City, just being around the young kids and helping them out was something special. It just took off from there."

Are there any former coaches who had a heavy influence on you and your coaching career?

"Oh yes, definitely Wayne Hall. He still is my all-time favorite coach. He was hard on us, but he was always fair and he was a players' coach. He would push you to your limits, but it made you a better player.

"It's been four to five years since I last saw him in person. I saw him at an Auburn game and from what I understand he's changed a lot. He's become more of a spiritual person, which I think is terrific."

Speaking of Auburn games, when was the last time you attended one?

"I believe it was last year. Maybe it was the year before because it was the Alabama game we played at home."

What do you think of the new coaching staff at Auburn?

"Well, it remains to be seen, but I've heard a lot of good things about Coach (Gene) Chizik. He's got some former Troy coaches working with him. I don't know him personally, but I've heard good things about him and he's a real smart coach. I guess we'll have to wait to see what happens."

One of the things Coach Chizik has stressed is an open door to former Auburn players. Do you think this is important?

"Definitely because it shows the young guys where they can go. The former players can show them what it's like to be there and the opportunities ahead of them and what they have to do to achieve the next level.

"They can also stress how the coaches will groom you and give you discipline to help you out down the road, not just in the game but in life."

You have Dell McGee, the head coach at Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., and James Willis at Alabama in the coaching profession. Are there any other of your Auburn teammates currently coaching?

"Mike Pelton was coaching there with Chizik at Iowa State. I believe he's coaching high school ball now. I keep in touch with Brian Robinson down there in Ft. Lauderdale, who is coaching with Otis Mounds."

In terms of your coaching career, where would you like to be five years from now?

"I would love to be coaching Division I football. Just my short time at Troy was exciting, but coaching Division I football is my goal. You can be around a lot better players and you can develop as a coach at that level.

"I want the chance to help develop these kids like someone helped me. It's definitely my dream."

Looking back at your playing days at Auburn, if you had to pick one memorable moment or game, what would it be?

"My most memorable game would be LSU (Auburn 30, LSU 26 in 1994). It was the game the defense scored all those touchdowns. I think I had something like 19 tackles. I blocked a field goal, I had an interception and I recovered a fumble for a touchdown. That was one tough game because I had a couple of IV's after that game."

Flipping it to the other side of the spectrum, what would be your worst moment as a player?

"The worst moment would have to be when we went on probation and lost to Alabama in Birmingham. That was Pat Dye's last game and we wanted to win that one so badly for him. That was the worst moment. I will never forget that."

Auburn fans are hoping to see a turnaround from last year. With a new coaching staff bringing new life to the team, what could you share to the players and fans of what it was like to turn things around from 1992 to 1993?

"Well, actually a bunch of us guys got together. It was me, Frank Sanders, James Bostic and some other guys. We got together because at first we were not sure what to do. We had to decide if we were going to leave or not and we decided to stay.

"We decided that whoever came in to coach us, we were going to work hard for him to become a good team. I don't know if it was Pat Dye, but we just wanted to prove ourselves. Keeping Dye's defensive coaches was a big thing and a key to our success that year. It all fell into place because we came together as a team and decided to play as a team."

Was there one particular game that made you feel it was going to be a special year?

"When we beat Florida. They were one of the top teams in the country and we were just making our way up the polls. We beat them again the next year in Florida when they were No. 1 and we were like No. 4."

Do you think you might be able to make it back to Auburn this season?

"I talked to Thomas Bailey (former AU receiver) just the other day and we were actually talking about coming down on the 19th for a game, but we will see what happens."

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