SEATTLE — Danny Shelton readily admits that he’s had an anger problem for most of his life.
It’s unimaginable what the horrific events of almost one year ago did to stoke that fire.
The 315-pound defensive tackle for the University of Washington is glad to have his first year of college football behind him, but he’s probably just as eager to forget the past. On May 1, two of Shelton’s older brothers were shot while reportedly attempting to be peacemakers in a neighborhood dispute between two other families. One of those brothers, middle school basketball coach Shennon “Skeevie” Shelton, died of his gunshot wounds while the other eventually recovered.
For obvious reasons, Danny Shelton doesn’t like to talk about that night. But he admits that controlling his anger is more difficult than ever.
“In high school, I always had anger,” the former Auburn High School star said Wednesday. “With the thing with my brother, I still have that in the back of my mind. That might be an extra reason to bring on the flashes (of anger). But I’m not thinking about that. I’m just going to keep on trying to control it.”
The Huskies are expecting big things this fall from Shelton, who will try to step into the large shoes of Alameda Ta’amu while also attempting to make the transition to UW’s new 3-4 defensive scheme. Shelton’s athleticism and natural size give him a good start, but it might be anger management that dictates just how far the sophomore-to-be goes as a football player.
“I still have some flashes (of anger), but I’m learning to control that,” Shelton said.
Asked to explain what it meant to have anger problems, he said: “Little things bother me. I have to learn how to control my anger, and I’ve really learned how to do that. (New defensive line coach Tosh) Lupoi, he’s helped me with that a lot. I’ve really been focused on that.”
As part of a large, close-knit family, Shelton has relied on a familial method of overcoming his issues since arriving at UW. He leaned on upperclassmen like Ta’amu, Everette Thompson and Talia Crichton to help him manage his anger and get through the most difficult year of his young life.
“The best part was being able to connect with my D-line family,” he said about his first season at UW last fall. “Alameda and Everette, they were good leaders for me. They were like big brothers to me, and that really helped me out.”
Coach Steve Sarkisian said Shelton handled his freshman year with remarkable resolve.
“He’s always been a mature guy,” Sarkisian said. “To go through what he went through, from a maturity standpoint, he’s always shown that. Now it’s just continuing to grow into a leadership role.”
Shelton still feels like the young guy on UW’s defensive line, at least until another freshman crop arrives in the fall, so he continues to lean on players like Crichton and Hau’oli Jamora to help him control his anger.
“We just told him to use it as motivation on the field, not to punch guys and stuff,” Crichton, a junior defensive end, said. “He’s done that (punched teammates) at practice a couple times. We told him not to do that.”
Crichton added that Shelton already has made big strides in terms of controlling his anger.
“He’s had flashes of anger, but he’s gotten better at it,” Crichton said. “So I don’t really think it’s a problem.”
As any expert on behavioral patterns will confirm, the first step to controlling emotions is acknowledging the problem head-on. And Shelton seems to be doing that.
He said the key to tackling his own anger is: “Taking my time, relaxing, trying to think about the next play.”
The key to coping with the tragic events of last May are much deeper, and having a focus like football is a positive way to get through each day. With a greater role and a new coaching staff, Shelton is excited about the fall.
“I feel great,” he said.
His future looks bright, but Shelton is just trying to live in the present.
And, for obvious reasons, he’s trying not to spend too much time focusing on the past.
Running back Jesse Callier (ankle) and safety Sean Parker (groin) sat out Wednesday’s practice after suffering injuries earlier in the week. Sarkisian said that, in both cases, the injuries are “nothing serious” but added that the duo could rest the injuries to prevent further harm. … Linebacker Jamaal Kearse missed a second consecutive practice due to illness. … UW’s defense continues to win the daily battles at spring practices, with another solid performance Wednesday despite some big plays from running back Bishop Sankey and wide receiver William Chandler earlier in the session.