Shelton Growing his Game

R.J. Shelton picked Michigan State over Wisconsin in late February because the Beaver Dam (Wis.) running back had a relationship with the Spartans coaching staff unmatched with any other program. Three months later, is that still the case?

MADISON - Being just up the road from the state's only Division 1 school (a program that has won consecutive conference championships), Beaver Dam running back R.J. Shelton knew he might get some odd looks wearing Michigan State gear through his high school hallways.

After all, the Spartans and the Badgers are starting to develop quite the rivalry on the football field, and Shelton recognizes that he's adding another small part to it.

"My family has always been behind me – knowing what I like and what I need – and they've always been there for me, but some my friends give me some grief," said Shelton. "For me, it's just a choice I made. You have to make that choice and Michigan State was the best choice for me."

That choice came in late February one week after Shelton's recruitment appeared to get more complicated. Attending Wisconsin's junior day, Shelton – a three-star running back ranked No.37 in the country by Scout.com – was offered a scholarship by Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.

Shelton (5-11, 185 pounds) rushed for 2,048 yards and 34 touchdowns on his way to conference offensive player of the year last year. He also described himself as a ‘lock down defender' with roughly 50 tackles last season, and Wisconsin saw him either as a running back or receiver.

Shelton was adamant he wanting to be a college running back and stuck to his guns after the Michigan State coaching staff showed faith in him to succeed at that position.

"The coaches that they have there are a bunch of good guys outside of football," Shelton said of the Spartans' staff. "The way they interact with the kids is very respectful, treating everyone like young men. They were one of my first offers and believed in me for a long time. They knew that I wanted the ball in space and they wanted to put me in the best situation where I can do what I do best.

"They knew what I was capable of, and it was nice to know that will happen for me."

During the spring evaluation process, Shelton says schools have stopped in to say hello, including Wisconsin secondary coach Ben Strickland, but it's going to take something gigantic to sway Shelton's mind.

"I made my decision and schools have been very respectful," said Shelton. "Coaches haven't given me a hard time and they respect my choice, which is always nice. I think Wisconsin knows I am set in stone with Michigan State."

Shelton's only camp appearance this summer will be at the Michigan State later this summer. He also has the goal of building up his upper body strength to prepare for the big hits he'll take from college defenders.

He also is hopeful that he'll get a chance to play once against the Badgers in his home state in either the 2017 or 2018 season.

"It's going to be pretty interesting," said Shelton. "I know a lot of guys that I'll be playing against and a lot of guys I know that will be watching. It's just a thrill to keep my football career going outside of high school. It's going to be a good feeling with a lot of emotions and hard work that will put me in that spot to play college football, let alone play in your home state."


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