The Future

If ever there was a local recruit the Pitt football team would hope to make its early interest known, that player would be running back Rushel Shell from Hopewell, Pa. High School.

At nearly 6-feet tall and 210 pounds, Rushel Shell proved to be a powerhouse, but he also has excellent speed with a 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. So, Shell can run over a defender just as easily as he can go around one.

Rushel Shell is center stage now.

And after a spectacular freshman season, 1,516 yards (8.38 per carry) and 14 touchdowns for the Vikings, Shell reminded some about another for Hopewell tailback who Pittsburgh coveted in the mid-1970s and went on to win a national title and the Heisman Trophy for the Panthers in 1976.

"Schools can send out questionnaires and things like that, but nothing else,'' Shell said. "And I can call them any time, but I really haven't done that. I guess it won't be long before I start getting letters from colleges, but nothing yet. I know a lot about Pitt, since they're my basically my hometown team, but I really haven't thought much about recruiting.''

The Panthers certainly are aware of Shell. It would be hard not to have noticed Shell last season, but initial scholarship offer letters can't be sent out until Sept. 1 of a recruit's junior year. And Schell obviously will be just a sophomore at Hopewell this fall.

Shell attended the camp at Pitt this year, as well as the Panthers prospects camp, and showed what he could do for the large coaching contingent in attendance.

"I know I had a pretty good season my freshman year, but these camps give me an opportunity to do more,'' Schell said. "I want to show people that I'm more than just a power back and that I can catch the ball, too.

"I went to camps at Penn State and Pitt and the recruiting combine here. So, I've been around a little bit so far, but this will help me. And I hope to have an even bigger season this year as a sophomore.''

One area that Shell could put his breakaway speed on display would be while catches passes out of the backfield, but Hopewell isn't known for its passing game and most likely won't improve that status much this year, either.

"I'd like to show that I can catch passes,'' Shell said. "At the end of last season, they threw the ball my way a little bit, maybe 5-6 passes. And I definitely didn't drop any of them. But we really didn't throw the ball much at all last season. Maybe we'll throw the ball more this season.

"I think we should be pretty good this coming season, because I think we lost only one of our linemen. And we'll have a senior quarterback, but he didn't play much on offense last year. He mostly played defense, but he'll be all right. And he can always hand the ball off to me. I'm ready to increase my load.''

And that should delight football fans in the area, but concern Hopewell's opponents as well.

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