The Wrong Eric SheltonTwo weeks before the NFL draft, Louisville running back Eric Shelton found himself in an awkward position as he sat down for an interview with Carolina Panthers team officials at Bank of America Stadium.
During the interview process, Carolina team officials began asking Shelton about past criminal charges against him for sexual assault and marijuana possession.
A stunned Shelton didn't know what to say except, "I've never been in any trouble in my life."
As it turns out, he was right.
The entire thing was a big misunderstanding -- one that nearly cost Shelton a shot at being drafted and potentially millions of dollars.
The NFL regularly hires a company named Infomart USA to do background checks on players and it came back that Eric Shelton had a record.
However, it was a different Eric Shelton.
Luckily, Shelton's agent, Peter Schaffer, was able to clear up the misunderstanding and inform all 32 NFL teams of the mistake prior to the draft. Infomart also sent out an apology to every team.
"It was kind of weird situation. I've never been in trouble in my life," Shelton said. "I'm glad the Panthers brought that to my attention because had they not there may not have been a lot of interest in me in the draft."
This week, Shelton will return to Bank of America Stadium as the Panthers' second-round draft pick. Carolina chose Shelton with the 54th selection overall on Saturday.
He gives the Panthers another running back built in the same mold as Stephen Davis.
"Our scouts and coaches mentioned that his running style is similar to Stephen Davis," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney. "We think he fits very well."
Said head coach John Fox: "He's a big, physical hard runner with great speed. He's close to 250 pounds and runs a 4.5 (in the 40 meters)."
Davis is coming off knee surgery and his status for the 2005 season remains in question.
Asked if the decision to draft Shelton was a reflection of Davis' injury status, Hurney replied, "No, we're trying to get good football players. We've always said competition is good for the team. And that is what we try to do is bring in players who create competition."
Mathis has NFL Bloodlines--Third-round draft pick Evan Mathis is the nephew of former Miami Dolphins player Bob Baumhower, a member of the "Killer Bees."
"He has always been my role model," Mathis said. "As a little kid I got to watch him play for the Dolphins. He installed that football mentality in my blood. Going through high school he was a great supporter of me."
The decision to draft Mathis could mean the end is near for Bruce Nelson, a former second-round draft pick who has struggled with degenerative hip problems.
--Mathis wore No. 51 in college, but he'll have to find a new number when he arrives in Carolina. It's not that Mills' number has been retired - at least not yet - but that trainer Jackie Miles, who has know Mills since the USFL, simply won't give it out. Mills died last Monday of intestinal cancer.
Davis turns pro to support son--First-round draft pick Thomas Davis said the main reason he decided to turn pro after his junior season at Georgia was to financially support his 16-month old son, Denim.
"That was the main focus for me," Davis said. "That was reason I made the decision that I made.
"It definitely changes your life to have a person that you have to support. Now you're not just a 21-year old college student, you're a 21-year old college student with a kid. It makes you become a man very fast."
Those wacky Saints--The New Orleans Saints traded up three spots in the first round to No. 13 to get ahead of Carolina because they apparently thought the Panthers were going to select Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown with the 14th pick.
However, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney indicated the team had no intention of taking Brown over Davis.
"Thomas Davis has been one of our top guys all along, and again, we say it every year but this is a case of choosing the best football player available in our minds," Hurney said. "It was an easy choice."
The deal cost the Saints a third-round pick in 2006.
Derrick Johnson thought he'd be a Panther--The Panthers strongly considered trading down in the first round, but eventually decided against it. The Panthers have now selected a defensive player in five of the last six drafts.
--In a pre-draft chat with ESPN.com, Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson said the Panthers would definitely take him if he dropped to No. 14. Instead, they chose the more versatile Davis.
"Both those guys are fine football players, both would have fit, it's just the scouts and the coaches we just had him graded a little higher," said Tony Softli, the team's director of college scouting.
Spoon thinks Fields will return--For what it's worth, Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon believes Mark Fields will eventually re-sign with the team.
"I think he will be back," Witherspoon said. "For him it is just a matter of waiting before he clears his final round of testing.
"That is a major hurdle with everything he has been going through. Just getting through this final round of testing is going to be important for him. I talked to him after Sam Mills' memorial service and he looks great. I don't think there's anything wrong or that we're facing anything different with (the cancer)."
QUOTE TO NOTE"He's a little shorter than most quarterbacks, and that's probably the reason he went to the second day. But other than that it's hard to find anything wrong with him."
--Panthers head coach John Fox on QB Stefan LeFors