Teammates At Louisville, Teammates in Charlotte

This past weekend at the 2005 NFL draft in New York City, two players that have shared a number of snaps together at the University of Louisville, were reunited as teammates in Carolina. The Panthers landed 6'2'' running back Eric Shelton with their second round draft pick (54 overall). On day two, Carolina hit the Louisville campus again by snagging quarterback Stefan Lefors with the 20th pick (121 overall) of the fourth round.

In Shelton, the Panthers got a running back that fits the run-first mentality in Charlotte. Shelton shows similar traits of such backs as Stephen Davis and Jerome Bettis.

"I really don't like to compare my game to other players," Shelton said when asked about his comparison to Davis, "but as far as the tenacity goes and the north/south style that we have, I would say that's a valid comparison."

He will wear down a defense and has breakaway speed for someone his size. Running back was a low priority entering the draft, with other glaring holes such as offensive line and wide receiver. However, a complimentary back to Deshaun Foster's flashy speedster style is welcomed. Shelton's style of running is perfect for offensive coordinator Dan Henning in the red zone. Nobody knows the future of Stephen Davis in Carolina, but he is expected back mid-season. Also, who better to mentor a big bruising back and take Shelton under his wing than Stephen Davis?

At Louisville last season, Shelton ran for 938 yards and a ridiculous 20 touchdowns. In addition, he scored 30 touchdowns in his last two seasons for the Cardinals. He was a high school All-American and originally attended Florida State before transferring to Louisville.

"I came home for family issues and to help out a little bit," Shelton explained. "It was also an opportunity for my family to watch me play. When I was at FSU I was about 10 hours from home. When I came back home, everything worked out."

On Sunday, Carolina made a phone call to Stefan Lefors and tabbed the six-foot signal caller its first pick of day two. Lefors completion percentage last year was an eye-popping 73.5%. He threw for 2,596 yards, with 20 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Lefors is an efficient passer with pinpoint accuracy, and a great football mind. He reminds some of a Drew Brees because of his build. What makes Lefors such a solid second day pick is his character and the intangibles he brings to the table.

Lefors' story is the feel-good story of the Draft. Stefan's parents, older brother, maternal grandparents and three uncles are all deaf.

"To me, it was normal," Lefors said. "A lot of people don't look at it as normal. It was all I knew growing up. I have deaf parents, a deaf brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles that are deaf. I was pretty much the only one who could hear in my family. That was my life. We are a close family. We just communicated with our hands instead of our mouths."

Having nearly an all deaf family lead to a great deal of unnecessary ridicule when he was younger, which aided in his maturity and positive attitude. He had an outstanding high school career in Louisiana, but was off the college radar. Lefors ended up at Louisville thanks to his father putting together a video tape of his highlights in school.

While watching some games and highlights of him you can immediately see his knowledge of the game. His reads are precise and thorough, and he is cool under pressure. Being able to learn the ropes from another Louisiana product, Jake Delhomme, will be priceless. With the retirement of Rodney Peete, the aging Chris Weinke, and the raw talent of Rod Rutherford in front of Lefors, the opportunity to succeed is there.

"We have a saying that we look for smart, tough guys," general manager Marty Hurney said on Sunday. "Everybody's different but we have a philosophy of what we're looking for and certain traits that we are looking for and we try to get that as much as we can. We stress character as much as any team in the League and we stress a guy being committed and responsible and dependable. That's all kind of summed up in smart and tough. We have a certain blueprint of guys we're looking for, but it changes from player to player. You're not going to duplicate it every time. I do think we have a certain way of approaching things that has been consistent over the last three or four years, and that has been a real advantage for us."

Both Eric Shelton and Stefan Lefors symbolize the type of players that Carolina likes to select. Guys that come to work everyday, know their role, and look to exceed expectations. With no huge areas of immediate need in this draft, the Panthers solidified running back and quarterback with talented players that could play an even bigger role in the future.

Panther Insider Top Stories