Shelton said his mom had told him about those lists of people speculating who would play early, but said he didn't really pay attention to it.
"To me, I think if you just work and you just consistently get better as a person and better as a team and know your role that it really doesn't mean anything," Shelton said. "Just helping this team again to our common goal, you know, chase it, Big Ten, Rose Bowl, just doing those things to just become better as a unit. That's the ultimate goal."
Shelton said his mom told him he was going to a good team and just had to prove himself.
It didn't take long to do just that and Shelton made his debut Saturday against South Florida, which head coach Mark Dantonio said is because he can make plays.
"We took the redshirt off R.J. Shelton because we feel he can make plays," Dantonio said. "He demonstrated that. Great running ability after the catch and he's got great speed."
The 5-foot-11, 204-pound freshman from Beaver Dam, Wisc., said the coaches told him last week their plan with him.
"They just told me to come to the office," Shelton said. "They basically just told me this is what you're going to be in and we are going to rep it and practice it and then all of a sudden we used it for the game at the Thursday walkthrough."
Shelton said he was excited to get out on the field for the first time.
"From being a recruit and coming out there and getting snaps, it was like, ‘Wow, this is college football,'" Shelton said.
Against South Florida, Shelton got the ball in his hands twice on jet sweeps – the package installed for him – and gained seven yards.
"I just ran like I normally ran the ball like I was in high school" Shelton said. "I read it like I normally do what I do, but it's just a high level where all the guys are the same speed if not faster. It was more of excitement for me, for the first time."
Shelton, who played wide receiver as well as running back in high school, said his experience with both brings versatility.
"It's more of just now they know they have someone that can run the rabbit and someone that can go in the backfield," he said. "Now, I've just gotta get more depth in the playbook and then they can use me in different ways than just running the end around."
For now, Shelton said the experience he gained last Saturday was a good confidence booster and will be good moving forward.
"It was a blessing for that to happen," he said. "Just make the most of my opportunities. Coach D preaches make the most of your opportunities and I did and I'm just going to keep working from there."