Nobody was smiling more than wide receiver Matt Shelton on Monday. The fifth-year senior has battled back from a knee injury, and he says he's hoping to make a full recovery by the start of the 2005 season.
"(I'm) doing great," said Shelton when asked how he was rebounding from his knee injury. "(I) did the conditioning test this morning, passed, and I'll be out there this afternoon."
"I don't know if I can go into details," said Shelton when asked specifically what the nature of his injury was. "I'll let Jim (Russ) and coach Weis talk about that."
Shelton's just happy to be able to play after inexplicably being left out of the rotation the past three seasons despite the fact that the Irish lacked a vertical passing game.
The 6-0, 175-pound speedster exploded on the scene last season catching 20 passes for 515 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Shelton's 25.75 yards per reception speaks volumes to how deadly he can be in the passing game.
"Last year was very exciting for me, but that was last year," said Shelton about his breakout season. "I've got to get back out there and do it all over again and help this team win games. I think we should have a good offense with a lot of weapons this year."
We asked Shelton if he felt any pressure to repeat his incredible season in 2005.
Knee injuries usually take considerable time to heal. Shelton admitted that he isn't 100 percent heading into camp.
"Yeah, I'm pretty happy with where I am," he admitted. "I know there is much more room for me to get better. I'm not where I want to be right now, obviously. I still have some things to work on, especially technique-wise, hands, I've got to run better routes, but everything is coming back."
Shelton, a Collierville, Tenn. native, says he's not exactly sure how much practice time he'll get during each practice session.
"I don't know how the coaches are going to handle it," he said. "I feel that I'm ready. You never know, some bumps could come along the road, but we're going to deal with it as it comes."
One thing is certain, however, Shelton has had enough of the summer lifting program.
"(I'm) definitely ready to get back out there. Lifting and running all summer is fun, but it's great to put that helmet back on," said Shelton with a laugh.
Irish fans have to hope Shelton can get back to 100 percent by the start of the season. Notre Dame is a different team when he is in the game, and teams have to respect his speed. Keep an eye on his progress because his health could be a factor in how much success the Irish have on offense in 2005.