BYU cornerback Michael Shelton has to stay strong to lead young cornerback group
It’s been a tumultuous week for BYU senior cornerback Michael Shelton.
Last week, he let some of his frustration show after the tough 7-6 home loss to Northern Illinois, making comments about fan support that he later apologized for.
Then he went on the road last Saturday at Boise Staet and was covering a Bronco receiver who scored a touchdown — but he rallied by intercepting a BSU pass.
“My mindset is the same every week,” Shelton said Tuesday after practice. “I just want to go out and help my team win. I try to leave everything out there on the field. With this being my last year, I can’t afford to leave anything behind. My frustration was off of the loss and that’s all it was.”
Perhaps the worst part of the whole week, however, came when he saw his good friend, junior cornerback Chris Wilcox, get hurt during the 21-16 loss to the Broncos. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake confirmed Monday that Wilcox will be out for the rest of the season.
“He’s been my dude this whole year,” Shelton said. “I was hoping it wasn’t anything serious when it first happened, but being so close to him as the season has gone on — it’s not like it is happening to you, but it kind of is. We worked out all summer together, then to have his season end that way, is just heartbreaking.”
Wilcox had made a few clear mistakes but for the most part had played very good football for BYU this season while also being a leader for the Cougar cornerback unit.
“It’s really tough for Chris,” BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford said Tuesday. “With where he came from, the kid he is and how he’s been playing — I tell everyone that he had some pass interference calls but I tell the guys that I would rather give up 15 yards than a 60-yard touchdown.”
Now more of that responsibility — particularly with regard to leadership — will fall on Shelton’s shoulders.
“The good thing about Mike is that he’s been a leader for the last couple of years,” Gilford said. “He’s natural at playing corner and he helped Chris out. He’s got to help the other guys out as well, but he’s been doing it for so long that it won’t be an issue for him.”
Part of the leadership role, however, is knowing how to stay in control and not let the frustration slip out like it did last week.
“I pulled him to the side and told him that that is life,” Gilford said. “We have to be cautious about the things that we say on all levels, whether you are a teacher or a student or the president or whoever it may be. Some things are best kept for yourself. I understand and everyone else does too — that you want to win just as bad as everybody else. You just have to think before you speak. Now, he’s ready to move on and hopefully the crowd will be behind him.”
But that is in the past now and for the Cougars it’s all about moving forward.
Shelton said he’s confident that the younger cornerbacks, like freshmen D’Angelo Mandell and Keenan Ellis who will need to step up in Wilcox’s place, are ready.
“They are really mature,” Shelton said. “They come to me wanting to learn and understand more about the game. I have a lot of respect for them for that. Being that I’m a senior and have been doing this for quite awhile, they understand that I have knowledge that they don’t have yet and I can give them some of that. I can help them with that as the year goes on.”
Gilford said there is no choice for the younger cornerbacks now. They have to be ready to go.
“The benefit of playing the young guys since fall camp, giving them live reps, so they’ve been thrown in the fire,” Gilford said. “They are in the situation Chris and Dayan (Ghanwoloku) and Troy (Warner) were two or three years ago. These guys just have to step up. We have to live up to the challenge. We are prepared so it will be up to the guys to go out and make the plays.”