Because of his speech impediment, Brandon Shell was a shy, quiet kid growing up in Goose Creek, South Carolina. When he did talk, his stutter sometimes drew taunts from other kids. During lunch one day, a 13-year-old Shell had enough of the teasing from one classmate.
“I got up and just hit him,” Shell told The Associated Press in 2017. “At that point, I was just tired of it. Then, I realized that was not the way to go about it.”
Shell is now using his experiences with his stutter to try to help others. The Seahawks’ 6-foot-5, 324-pound offensive lineman has become an ambassador for The Stuttering Association for the Young, and on Tuesday he led a Zoom call with kids from the Seattle area who have their own speech impediment.
“I notice a lot of kids that struggle with the stuttering,” Shell said in a videoconference from the Seahawks’ facility on Wednesday. “I just know that being the guy that I am and using my platform, that I should let them know that it’s OK if you have that problem. You can get through it, and it’s not going to stop you or it’s not going to define you from what you want to be in life.”
When he played for the New York Jets, Shell participated in a promotional campaign for STOMP Out Bullying, a national anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying organization for kids. Now he’s bringing a similar message to Seattle.
“Just actually talking with the kids and just them asking me questions about how I got through it and the things that I do to get by it and things like,” he said. “Just seeing those kids actually listening and locked in and talking and asking and questions, and seeing them taking the knowledge and just running with it, it was great for me.”
Shell, the great-nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, was a key free-agent signing for the Seahawks this offseason, taking over for the departed Germain Ifedi at right tackle. The early returns have been encouraging for the Seahawks and their new-look line: Seattle ranks as the fifth-best line in the NFL in pass blocking, according to ESPN analytics.
“I just appreciate being with a couple guys like this,” Shell said, adding: “When all 11 guys are clicking, we have good things happen. And I think that this is just the beginning, because we still have things to work on as well. So we just got to keep building on this.”
Shell has allowed two sacks through three games, according to Pro Football Focus. But in the most crucial moment of Sunday’s victory over Dallas, Shell and the rest of the Seattle line gave Russell Wilson more than four seconds in the pocket, enough time for Wilson to throw the winning touchdown pass to DK Metcalf.
According to ESPN research, there were 11 plays in which Wilson had more than four seconds to throw on Sunday — the most such plays by any team in any game since ESPN began tracking such data in 2017.
And, certainly, the offensive line has played no small role in helping Wilson jump to the forefront of the MVP conversation early in the season.
Shell pointed to a team mantra this season: “Do right, longer.”
“That’s the mentality — you’ve got to do righter, longer,” Shell said. “You’ve got to give Russ whatever he needs, however much time he needs. You’ve just gotta keep going.”