Big things are ahead for Washington’s biggest defender.

Danny Shelton has started 28 consecutive games at nose tackle for the Huskies, and he enters his senior year as the 332-pound anchor on a deep and experienced defensive line that returns its starting unit intact.

Beyond next season, the potential of a promising future in the NFL awaits — and those thoughts already have started to creep in for Shelton. They’re thoughts he’d rather forget.

“I feel like I need to stay strong mentally,” he said. “This is my senior year, and there’s a lot to think about, and I can’t get too ahead of (things). I feel myself starting to do that, so I need to resist that. I want to be able to cherish every moment with these guys.”

He said, at times, he’s been “thinking about (NFL) combine training and agents and all that. This is the time when a lot of players start to think about that stuff, but I want to stay focused on the season and on what’s in front of me right now, instead of worry about what’s going to happen (next year).”

Shelton earned honorable-mention all-Pac-12 recognition last season — and was a first-team all-conference all-academic selection — while playing through a left shoulder injury that needed surgery in January.

“I’m still rehabbing the shoulder,” he said. “I’m still not to my full strength, taking it light in the weight room.”

Shelton has been working with the first-unit defense this spring, alongside tackle Evan Hudson and ends Hau’oli Kikaha and Andrew Hudson. (Cory Littleton, one starting end last season, has been sideline while recovering from offseason surgery.)

Shelton also has switched from jersey No. 71 to No. 55, something he wanted to do to honor his late brother, Shennon.

“I’m trying to work to represent this number right — 55 is the new me,” he said.

Thompson impresses at running back

In UW’s first spring scrimmage Thursday night, junior linebacker Shaq Thompson took another impressive step in his bid to become a two-way player for the Huskies.

Thompson had three carries for 106 yards Thursday, including a 74-yard touchdown run in which he broke into the open field and away from chasing defensive backs. He participated in a couple more drills with running backs during practice Saturday.

“Each time we get him the ball,” UW coach Chris Petersen said, “he seems to do something good.”

Thompson, a standout running back in high school, admitted he’s surprised at how smoothly he’s readjusted to the position after more than two years. He’s been meeting one-on-one with running backs coach Keith Bhonapha.

“We’re just trying to teach him a few things on offense and see where it goes,” Petersen said. “Our eyes are kind of wide open on the whole thing. We don’t really have a set plan. The better he does, the more we give him some things.”

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or ajude@seattletimes.com.