Almost A Vol

Ole Miss sophomore MLB/OLB/DE D.T. Shackelford thought he was going to fulfill a dream and play for Tennessee out of high school, but a coaching change and soul-searching sent him to Ole Miss. Read about it inside.

During his senior season at Austin HS in Decatur, AL, Ole Miss sophomore D.T. Shackelford, a jack-of-all trades who plays all linebacker slots and started the last game at defensive end, fulfilled a lifelong dream and committed to Coach Phillip Fulmer of the University of Tennessee, this week's Rebel opponent.

"Don't ask me why someone from Alabama turned into a Tennessee fan, but I was one my whole life. I was just never an Alabama or Auburn fan and I don't have an explanation why," smiled D.T. "My dream growing up was to play at UT. When Coach Fulmer offered me a scholarship, I committed to him."

Prior to signing day of the spring of 2009, however, Fulmer was dismissed from his duties at Tennessee and the ill-fated Lane Kiffen hire was made.

Kiffen visited D.T.'s home to persuade him to stay with his commitment, but Shackelford was already thinking about another route.

"I wished him well with the program, but I just had a feeling my life was heading in a different direction," D.T. recalled. "I had to pick the right place to be rather than where I wanted to go my whole life.

D.T. Shackelford

"I spent many nights praying, asking God to lead me in the right direction. Ultimately, He led me here and I couldn't have made a better decision. Sometimes you have to pick a different path than what you have been believing for a long time. I had to make sure I was happy, and I am happy I am here at Ole Miss. If Coach Fulmer had stayed there, I might be a Vol, but once he left, I got on a new path. I listened to the people who care about me and we were all in agreement. Coming here to play for Coach (Houston) Nutt was right for me. I am doing well on and off the field."

D.T. made an instant impact at Ole Miss, earning playing time at middle linebacker and on special teams before injury slowed down his progress.

This year, he has played all three linebacker positions and got his first start at defensive end against Louisiana last weekend.

"it's really nothing new to me - to play different positions. I played linebacker and put my hand in the dirt at defensive end in high school, so this is not new to me," he stated. "Once you get on the field, it's about seeing the ball and going to get it.

"We have to play within a system, but it's not complicated. If you see the ball, go get it. We fit in the scheme, but at the end of the day, you are going to make a play. Go meet the football."

He expects to play both linebacker and defensive end for the rest of his career at Ole Miss.

"I've always played both so I don't think it will be a big deal. I've gotten used to it," said Shackelford.

D.T. Shackelford

Practice sessions can be hectic, swapping from position to position, but - again - no big deal for the fiery competitor.

"I'll do some pass rush from DE, do some 7-on-7 from LB, then put my hand in the dirt in team and play some middle and Sam during team," he laughed. "It's whatever, I don't mind. Whatever you can do to help the team, you do it with all the passion and energy you've got. Anything to help win, I will do it."

Last season, Shackelford had bum ankles for a big chunk of the season and did not get to play against Tennessee in Oxford in a 42-17 Rebel victory.

"I'm excited about playing there. I took visits there and like their stadium and the atmosphere. It will be a very exciting game," D.T. added. "We've both had an up-and-down year. We both are developing a lot of young players. We're both playing hard.

"We just have to make sure we come out focused because UT has a lot of talent, they are just young, and they don't have any quit in them."

Shackelford doesn't believe Tennessee's running backs have been given enough credit.

"They haven't been talked about enough. They have quality backs. Tauren Poole and Rajion Neal are good backs who do a lot of positive things. They have a young QB and young OL, and they are starting to put some things together, a lot like we are," he noted.

D.T. will play a lot of snaps against his boyhood favorite.

The only question is at what position?

"It doesn't matter," D.T. closed. "Just put me out there."

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