On a stage more befitting a man of his size and talents, Shelton will be in Chicago for the NFL draft, where an audience of 3,000 will fill Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.
The stage was set and, yes, it was fit for Danny Shelton.
Accompanied by his mother, Shelton was the guest of honor Friday night at the Burke Museum of Natural History’s annual fundraising auction. Washington’s 340-pound All-American defensive tackle gave a two-minute speech and received a standing ovation from the 321 guests as he took one step down from the small, 8-foot-by-12-foot makeshift stage.
“This is definitely the first time for both of us being at an auction,” Shelton had told the crowd. “Luckily, I’m just a student-athlete. If I was financially stable, I’d be (buying) everything.”
Weight: 339 pounds
Notable: The first UW football player to earn Academic All-American honors since 1991. … Led the nation with five fumble recoveries, while also picking up 16.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. … Could become first Husky player drafted in the first round since Desmond Trufant in 2013 (No. 22 overall to the Falcons).
That drew a hearty laugh. Shelton smiled.
Come Thursday night, there will be more — much more — to celebrate for Shelton and his family. On a stage more befitting a man of his size and talents, Shelton will be in Chicago for the NFL draft, where an audience of 3,000 will fill Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre and some 30 million viewers will watch the first round on ESPN.
Before all that, Shelton attended two classes at UW on Monday and made last-minute arrangements before his scheduled flight to Chicago, with his family, on Tuesday morning.
“It kind of feels like you’re getting ready for prom,” said Shelton, who will wear formal Samoan wear to the draft, an ofukigo shirt and an iefaikaga wrap.
Shelton’s cultural roots are important to him. His connection to the Burke Museum was spurred by his desire to make a greater connection with his family’s heritage. An intern at the museum, located on the northwest corner of the UW campus, Shelton is surely the only NFL prospect who can boast being a first-team academic All-American and an amateur museum curator.
Holly Barker, the museum’s curator of Pacific and Asian Culture, described Shelton as a “member of the Burke family,” and she’s proud of how he opened the museum’s doors for many of his UW teammates, particularly the tightknit Polynesian players, to follow through on his work there.
“He’s a magnet,” she said.
Before the auction on Friday, Shelton gave his mom a tour of the museum’s vast storage, where dozens of 15-foot tall shelves store priceless artifacts. Shelton, Barker and several others listened intently as his mom, Oneone, described how her grandmother would use coconut leaves to make baskets and floor mats like the ones stacked on the shelves.
Later, his mom was asked her feelings on the draft and buzz building about her son’s future. “Nervous,” she said.
More draft coverage
We’ve got all your NFL draft needs covered this week in The Times and at seattletimes.com:
• Bob Condotta will take a closer look at the Seahawks’ draft strategy in Wednesday’s Times.
• Condotta and Jayson Jenks break down the first round with their mock draft in Thursday’s Times.
• Jerry Brewer, Larry Stone, Condotta and Jenks will bring you the latest updates and analysis — including live chats — Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the draft.
It was the same word Danny had used in December, when asked about his expectations for the upcoming NFL draft process. He was nervous about opening up about the incident that led to the shooting death of his older brother, Shennon, during an altercation in Auburn. Shelton’s other older brother, Tui, survived a bullet that remains lodged in his lungs, and Danny escaped unharmed only after the shooter’s gun jammed.
Shelton was angry, sad and confused, and the anger often boiled over in his first few years at UW. He had a reputation as a problem child with the Huskies’ coaching staff under Steve Sarkisian; early in his sophomore season, a frustrated Shelton punched a goal post during practice and broke his hand. He played the rest of the season with a cast.
The shooting happened on May 1, 2011, four years ago this Friday. Shelton has been asked about it often the past few months, in meetings with NFL personnel and in interviews with national media members, and he’s been surprisingly candid about the incident, and more.
In a series of video diaries, posted online and produced by Grit Media, Shelton has talked about topics both serious (the shooting and his abusive father) and silly (on dating).
“It’s been crazy,” he said of the past few months, “but at the same time, fun and exciting. There were times when it was stressful, but times where it definitely feels like a blessing, just to be where I was to where I am now.”
Shelton has never been to counseling — he feels it might make him look weak — but opening up so much to so many has, he said, been “therapeutic.” A steady girlfriend and two dogs keep him grounded, too.
“I’ve grown a lot,” he said Monday. “It’s given me — I don’t know the right word — comfort, I guess, to just talk openly about everything. I just feel like, having my dogs, having a girlfriend and my family doing OK … I’m more calm. I don’t have to be too stressed all the time.”
Come Thursday night, on the biggest stage yet, the only stress he will have will be a good kind of stress: Will he be a top-10 pick? Which team will take him? How does his hair look on national TV?
In the end, Shelton and his family will have much to celebrate.