Another Year?

After two years of rehab on a twice-repaired knee, D.T. Shackelford has a lot of things running through his mind concerning a possible sixth year in 2014. But he's in no hurry to make a final decision because right now his only focus is on contributing to his team down the stretch run of this season.

D.T. Shackelford is usually very easy to read.

For one thing, he's an open book, willing to share his life experiences. Not for his benefit, but as lessons for those around him.

For another, his eyes give him away. Dark, expressive eyes that deny him the ability to mask his emotions.

They can flash compassion, hurt, joy, anger and frustration in a way that makes what he's feeling instantly identifiable.

Most people can be read, but Shackelford seems to project more which allows one to define his feelings more acutely.

. . . . Until, that is, you ask him about his future.

All Rebels are aware Shackelford will have the option at the end of this year to apply for a sixth year of eligibility if he chooses to.

But getting a solid, conclusive answer to that question from him, right now, is like trying to pin down the weather.

Shackelford's not intentionally playing dodge ball with the query. That's not his style. He simply does not know.

D.T. Shackelford
Chuck Rounsaville

"I'm going to pray about it and see what God wants me to do," he says. "Right now, I'm just enjoying the moment.

"Education is number one. I'll be done with my Masters in May, but there are still some more things I want to pursue educationally. Maybe a doctorate, maybe another Masters program," he stated. "Football doesn't last forever and I want to be prepared for that day academically."

On the other hand, his passion for the game also comes in to play.

"I love the game and I love Ole Miss," he continued. "I love the guys I play with. There are reasons for a sixth year.

"I also have a dream of the NFL. Who can predict the future? I never thought I would have to sit out two years with two knee operations. I'm not counting out anything."

In terms of his long comeback, Shackelford likes the path he is on.

"I am feeling really good right now. I quit playing with a brace on the knee in the Auburn game and that has freed me up some. I was nervous at first because I didn't know how it would feel, but I feel great. That brace will stay in my locker, I can tell you that," he noted. "But I knew coming into the season I wasn't going to be where I was before the injury. It just was not realistic.

"With the help of the weight staff, the coaches, the trainers and everyone else, I'm feeling real close to where I was. Everyone has put a lot of time into me and I have put in a lot of time. When that kind of effort is put into something, it's going to blossom - eventually. I've been getting better every day, every practice, every lift."

If he gets back to where he was physically, or better, that will weigh heavily on his decision of whether to come back for another year or leave.

"That will be a big factor," he said. "If I continue to get better, I will have a win-win situation. I can keep playing football and chasing that dream and I can keep going further with my education.

"How could I lose? It's a blessing to have this many options and I won't lose no matter what I decide."

The eyes flash again.

While there is a hint of indecision, there is also that familiar Shackelford gleam that was missing during his tedious two years of rehab and uncertainty.

It's a gleam of excitement about the future and knowing no matter what his final decision is, it will be the right one.

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