DESTIN – Deterrian Shackelford is the refreshing side of sports. The side you wish to see more often.
The Ole Miss star linebacker played his senior season with two degrees. He had completed his bachelor’s in history, then got his master’s degree in higher education, all while overcoming two reconstructive knee surgeries during his six years in college.
The NCAA granted him the extra years of through injury hardship and being a grad student. He’s been a difference maker for Ole Miss and all those who he inspires.
“My whole thing even coming out of high school was to be a person who could be looked at outside of what I did on the field,” said Shackelford, who received the Wuerffel Trophy at the 46th annual All Sports Association Awards banquet Friday in Fort Walton Beach.
“You always want to be looked at by people who could say, let’s take away his football abilities. … Without the brown ball, who is he? And that’s when you really get to know the person,” Shackleford said.
Wow. If only that message could resonate more often, change the approach of so many of his peers.
Shackelford’s off-field achievements, beginning with five-time All-SEC academic selection and two-time semifinalist for National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award, exemplify a man who made the most of his opportunity.
This is the 10th year of the Wuerffel Trophy, named in honor of former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who led the Gators to their first national title season in 1996 while winning the Heisman Trophy.
Since his football career ended, Wuerffel has devoted his life through his Christian ministry to helping inspire and impact young people.
“This young man truly exemplifies not only all that is good about football, but the important and positive aspects of life,” said Wuerffel, a Fort Walton Beach High graduate, when announcing the award.
The sports world badly needs more guys like Shackelford, who aren’t looking to shout out about doubters or scream about their own greatness. Just be great on the field, off the field and the acclaim is natural.
“I am just a guy from a relatively small town in Decatur, Ala.,” he said. “I never thought I would be sharing a stage with guys like Pete Rose (the keynote speaker Friday) and Danny Wuerffel. And I have been to an event with Tony Dungy.
“This is something when you really think about it … these things are breathtaking. But it is something I am really proud of and I know my parents are proud of me. You want to make your parents proud.”
Shackelford has done that. He was part of the reason Ole Miss rose into prominence this season with a defense that finished as No. 1 in scoring defense.
He credited his parents, his friends, his teammates, his coaches and his entire hometown for helping him thrive.
“What drove me is the people who made it before me and trailblazed a path,” he said. “I watched them. I’ve done the easy part to follow them.”
He is quite a winner.
Bill Vilona is the sports editor for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org