Now, a few short months into their college careers, the pair can check playing in the Rose Bowl – and winning – off their list.
"It's a dream come true," Shelton said. "Ever since I was little, you watch this game. This is the game that you watch. For me to be just out there and experiencing that is just a blessing."
Shelton, Hicks and Michael Geiger were the three freshman to play in the 24-20 Michigan State win against Stanford. Running back Delton Williams, the fourth freshman not to redshirt this season, did not play.
Geiger was the lone freshman to register stats, hitting his lone field-goal attempt.
Even though he didn't have a tackle on special teams, Hicks called the experience crazy.
"It was crazy out there," he said. "Just being one of the freshman that played in this game and to be able to say, ‘Oh yeah, I played in the Rose Bowl game.' It's crazy."
With the opportunity in their first year, Shelton and Hicks both acknowledged the bar has been set high for their class and teammates in the coming years.
"The seniors put in the full work," Shelton said. "We just tagged along and we did the same. I think it's just a blessing for our class to see what we have to do to get to this point.
"I think that we embraced that and we are going to get back and we need to."
Hicks pointed to the work of the seniors, as well, noting it falls on those who will be back next year to take it to the next level.
"When it comes time for us, we gotta step up to the plate like that and go beyond the Rose Bowl if we can," he said.
Leaving as the winningest class in school history – the third time the record has been set in four years – the 2013 seniors put their mark on the program, but know the program is in a good place moving forward.
"They've got a great future ahead of them," safety Isaiah Lewis said. "It will snowball off this and build momentum of this game.
"They will start off great next year."