NFL defensive lineman Danny Shelton talks to friends prior to tipoff at the Sterling Athletics South Sound All-Star Game at Auburn High School’s Bob Jones Gymnasium last Friday night. Shelton, an Auburn alumnus, former Husky and a member of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, came home to be a celebrity coach for one of the all-star teams. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

NFL defensive lineman Danny Shelton talks to friends prior to tipoff at the Sterling Athletics South Sound All-Star Game at Auburn High School’s Bob Jones Gymnasium last Friday night. Shelton, an Auburn alumnus, former Husky and a member of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, came home to be a celebrity coach for one of the all-star teams. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Tackling the next challenge

Auburn’s Shelton comes home to embrace the community as a Super Bowl champion, now free agent

Danny Shelton is a player without a team.

But it’s temporary, he insists.

As the NFL free agency market heats up in March, Shelton of Super Bowl big-play fame remains confident that a general manager or coach will call his number. A gentle giant off the field, Shelton is a wrecking ball of a defensive lineman on it.

“I just want the opportunity to play,” Shelton said of his options.

Shelton came home last week to reconnect with family and friends and participate in some community fun. Shelton the player became Shelton the celebrity coach of a different sport. The former Auburn High School and University of Washington star accepted an invitation to coach a 4A West boys basketball team competing at the Sterling Athletics South Sound All-Star Game at Bob Jones Gymnasium last Friday night.

“It’s fun, just being able to come back to my high school and to be sitting on a basketball court is something different,” Shelton said between talking to friends and accepting post-game “selfie” photo requests. “I’ve never seen myself coaching or being a part of a basketball team. I’m just glad that (Auburn) Coach (Ryan) Hansen was able to reach out to me, get me out here and set this all-star game. It was a good experience.”

Shelton – fresh from fulfilling a reserve role as a run-stuffing tackle with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last month – expects to find a new team soon. New England acquired the 6-foot-2, 340-pound force in a trade with Cleveland last offseason, but the Patriots decided not to pick up the fifth-year option of Shelton’s rookie contract (four years, $11.7 million) heading into 2018.

Shelton will have to patiently play the waiting game.

“Hopefully, we will find out where we will be in these next couple of weeks or (even) months,” said Shelton, 25, who was the Brown’s No. 12 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. “Honestly, I’m open to the idea of having an opportunity to do whatever is best for me. Honestly, I’m going to leave it up to God, and let him handle it.”

Shelton will have plenty of suitors.

While he played sparingly for the Patriots in a backup role, Shelton made the most of his opportunity – no more evident than his explosive play during his team’s 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 at Atlanta on Feb. 3. He was stout and steady in his 16 defensive snaps and registered two tackles, one of which was a profound stop from behind the line of scrimmage early in the second quarter.

As if the 50-yard line were center stage, Shelton beat his block and burst through a gap to drop Rams running back C.J. Anderson for a 3-yard loss. Following the abrupt tackle, Shelton shook and shouted in celebration for about 98 million people to see.

“It was awesome,” Shelton said.

Shelton was even more awestruck about how well the Patriots anticipated the Rams and their tendencies. The coaching staff had the Patriots ready for just about anything. They contained the Rams, allowing just 62 yards rushing for the game.

“The preparation for the Super Bowl alone, playing the Rams … the film work, just studying for these guys, it came off in a big way,” Shelton said. “I was able to make that big play when it came up.”

Big things and changes continue to shape Shelton’s life. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their first child, a boy. They live in West Seattle, with four dogs.

For Shelton, his best football is still ahead of him.

“The sky’s the limit really,” he said. “I have more motivation, with my baby boy on the way. I’m just excited for the opportunity to play again.”

Notes

For the record, Shelton’s West team dropped a 135-124 shootout to the 4A East squad coached by KING-5 sports’ Chris Egan. … Auburn senior Isaiah Dunn, one of the game’s Most Valuable Players, scored a game-high 34 points for the East. Dae’Kwon Watson, an Auburn freshman, drilled a pair of 3-pointers for the West. … The two-day tournament, under the direction of Hansen, fielded six games and showcased around 130 all-league boys and girls players from area high schools, mainly South Seattle to Olympia, for many college coaches to scout. … Throughout the tournament, money was raised to support Scotty Allsop’s Journey of Hope program. Allsop, a former high school football and basketball player in the South Puget Sound League, works as the manager for the Huskies’ Pac-12 regular-season men’s basketball champions. Allsop will bicycle across the continental U.S. this summer to raises funds and awareness for people with disabilities. To learn more and to donate, visit classy.org/fundraiser/1722570.

Danny Shelton watches the action from court-side as celebrity coach of the 4A West team during the Sterling Athletics South Sound All-Star Game last Friday night. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Danny Shelton watches the action from court-side as celebrity coach of the 4A West team during the Sterling Athletics South Sound All-Star Game last Friday night. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

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