When Drew Shelton came to campus as a true freshman last summer, Penn State’s offensive line was unproven.
The unit had talent, but several players were either coming off injuries or inexperienced at the college level.
Penn State expected to bring Shelton along slowly.
Then, Olu Fashanu, Penn State’s star left tackle, went down with an injury that cost him the rest of the season.
Franklin decided to start Shelton at left tackle for the last five games.
The 6-foot-5, 296-pounder had his struggles but held his own overall. In Penn State’s Rose Bowl win over Utah, Shelton made a critical block on Nick Singleton’s 87-yard touchdown run.
Penn State freshmen RB Nick Singleton hit the jets on this 87-yard TD run in the Rose Bowl with a great reach block from freshmen left tackle Drew Shelton and Canadian TE Theo Johnson.
Singleton and fellow frosh RB Kaytron Allen look like the next Nittany Lion backs in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/zYOY2DWFWq
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) January 3, 2023
Shelton spoke about the play during Penn State’s second-year player media availability this past Tuesday at Beaver Stadium.
“I remember getting the play call, and I was like, ‘ok, I like this play. We worked on it in practice,” Shelton said.”Special cadences. We knew it would work. It was a part of the game plan. I just remember taking my steps, falling on the guy and I hear the crowd roar, and I look up, and he’s gone. Big guys like me, we don’t like running 80 yards down the field. But that is a special circumstance to chase him down in the end zone.”
Shelton got praise from ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit during the play.
Although Shelton appreciated the shout-out, he’s concerned more about Penn State’s success than individual acclaim.
“(The shout-out was) cool, but it’s really about doing it for the team,” Shelton said. “I’m not really looking for the self-recognition, and that is part of being an offensive line. It’s more about the team than the individual.”
As with most freshmen coming into college, Shelton had to adjust.
Shelton pinpointed now-former center Juice Scruggs as someone who mentored him and the other young lineman from the moment they were on campus.
“I got to give a shout-out to Juice Scruggs,” Shelton said. “He took us all in the moment we got here. Me and Vega (Ioane) learned from him every day. In the meeting room, (Ioane) sat next to him, and I sat behind him. Any question we had, we could always ask Juice. He had all the answers. Well, maybe not all the answers, but has most of the answers.
“When coach Traut (offensive line coach Phil Trautwein) is talking in a meeting, and if we didn’t understand what he is saying, we could always ask Juice because he has been there for a while. When I got here, Coach Franklin said that Juice was a guy that I should mimic his habits. So coming in on Saturdays, getting that extra work, taking good notes in meetings, and stuff like that.”
Scruggs is now getting ready for the 2023 Draft. Shelton talked about how the team learned a lot from him. Although Scruggs will be missed, Shelton understands that the show must go on with new leaders on the line, such as Caeden Wallace.
“I got to give props to Caeden Wallace,” Shelton said, “he has stepped up a lot as a leader in this room. We got a lot of good guys and a lot of people in leadership roles, but he (Scruggs) will truly be missed.”
Shelton is projected to start at right tackle, with Fashanu forgoing the NFL Draft and returning in 2023.