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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Auburn's Kevin Shelton steps to the front

If concern existed that the Auburn High football team lacked leadership entering the 2012 season, it ended in a stack of cell phones at the first team meeting in June.
Senior-to-be Kevin Shelton ordered every player in the room to place their phones on a table before the coaches walked in.
“We don’t need any distractions,” Shelton said he told his teammates. “It’s time to focus. It’s football time. Our season starts now.”
Leadership was absent a year ago when the Trojans – perennial contenders in the SPSL North – labored to a 4-6 record and missed the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Shelton, the youngest of five children raised by a stern mother, is eager to fill the void.
“Last season, we lost a lot of games in the fourth quarter,” said Shelton, citing the team’s five losses by a touchdown or less. “No one stepped up to lead us. By the end of the year, our egos were crushed.
“As a junior, it was hard to be the guy to set down the law. But now I’m comfortable doing that.”
Shelton, one of the premier players in the South Sound at tight end and defensive end, possesses a maturity level that belies his youth. His iron-fisted mother, Oneone, put forth an orderly path for him and his siblings to follow, predicated on hard work, faith and family. And no one dared stray very far from it.
“She’s a very strong woman of God, and I give her all the credit for pointing me in the right direction,” said Shelton, whose father was rarely in his life (he died two years ago). “Growing up, anytime I made a mistake, she would sit me down, look me in the eye and say, ‘Don’t do that again.’
“And then I’d lose my TV and PlayStation for a week.”
Shelton, who works at a fast-food restaurant on weekends to help support his mother, also received guidance from his older brothers – Tui, Shennon and Danny – who preceded him as football standouts at Auburn. Danny, a first-team all-state lineman for the Trojans two years ago, is now playing at the University of Washington.
It was Tui who told Kevin to never doubt his abilities and potential as an athlete and a man. Shennon urged him to gaze into the future and to set career goals. Danny shared his love for music and taught him to play the ukulele.
All of them urged Kevin to excel in the classroom, where he carries a 3.8 grade-point average.
They’re a typical Samoan family, heavily leaning on one another, their extended family and their religious beliefs. But their world suffered an unthinkable calamity on May 1, 2011 when Shennon Shelton was shot and killed outside a home in Auburn during a neighborhood dispute.
According to police reports, Shennon had come to the aid of Tui, who had been called on to break up a street fight between two families not related to the Sheltons. Tui was shot and seriously wounded.
“It’s been real hard,” said Kevin Shelton, who witnessed the shooting. “The pain has never gone away. How could it?”
Part of Shennon Shelton’s legacy was his optimistic nature and constant encouragement of others.
One could see those traits in Kevin Shelton at Auburn’s first day of practice last week.
“How many did you get?” he excitedly asked a teammate who had just emerged from the weight room during preseason testing. When told that the skinny sophomore had hoisted 165 pounds in the bench press only twice, Shelton exclaimed, “Hey, good job! You’ll get there.”
Shelton will anchor the Trojans’ defense. He was a first-team all-league outside linebacker last season – as well as honorable mention all-SPSL North at tight end – but has since been moved to defensive end.
“It’s a more physical position in our defense, and it’s probably where he’ll play in college,” Auburn coach Gordon Elliott said. “He’s a strong, physical kid who has a good feel for the game. He’s a man out there.”
Shelton is a man just about everywhere. And he didn’t reach his 17th birthday until last month.


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