OL Drew Shelton opens up about his first month at IMG Academy
Penn State has signed just three prospects from IMG Academy over the years, but if all goes to plan, that’ll jump to four in December when Drew Shelton, originally from Downingtown, Pa., signs with the Nittany Lions.
Unlike the players before - QB Michael O’Connor, WR KJ Hamler and RB Noah Cain - Shelton committed to Penn State before enrolling at the school. That could help James Franklin and his staff pull another prospect (notably OL Tyler Booker) from the boarding school before it’s all said and done, but for now, recruiting for Penn State is one of the last things on Shelton’s mind. Rather, it’s been all about making the adjustment.
“It really is a grind,” Shelton said. “Just waking up every morning at like 6:30, getting down there for breakfast and all that, it's a grind. You're not done with football until like 11, and then you still have a full day of school, so it's definitely a long day. It took a little getting adjusted to, but I definitely feel like it's worth it.”
Shelton moved in just a few days into the new year, and one of the major developments since then was the addition of a three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Tra Thomas as IMG’s new offensive line coach. Growing up a Philadelphia Eagles fan, Shelton said it’s been a lot of fun working with Thomas.
“It's been super cool,” he said. “He knows just so much about the game and about offensive line play. It's pretty cool learning from a guy I grew up watching from a young age. I really like that part about it. I used to listen to him on the radio back at home all the time, too. All of my friends have been texting me asking what it's like to work with Coach Thomas. We all admired him growing up."
Shelton said that he’s already made a few changes to his stance and footwork, adding that it's the details that really separate IMG from other high school programs.
“One of the main things is that we changed up my stance into a two-point stance. Just how I set my feet is another thing,” Shelton said. “I think one thing that’s really stood out about IMG so far is that they really help you understand the details in football. It’s not about just going out there and blocking the guy in front of you anymore. A lot of the stuff we’re doing is about teaching me why I’m blocking this guy and how it impacts everything. Just the details are a big part of why I came down here and you can see that part already.”
The strength and conditioning program is another reason why Shelton felt that this was the best move for him. In addition to a more stable routine, he said the technology IMG offers should pay dividends sooner than later.
“The technology we have here is crazy. Just the amount of stuff you can do is really cool,” said Shelton. “One example is that we're using iPads to measure how fast we take reps when lifting. Our lifts have to measure at a certain speed or we have to do them again. It's to help with explosion and making sure we're maximizing everything we do. So, if I'm doing a deadlift, I have to lift the bar up to a certain point and I have to go at a certain velocity. That's been a game-changer, I feel. It feels like every rep is perfect.”
Admittedly, Shelton said that he does miss his family and friends from home, adding that he’s looking forward to seeing them when he returns to Pennsylvania. IMG Academy recently cancelled its spring break due to the pandemic, which will allow Shelton and the other athletes to head home in mid-May instead of the end of the month. In the meantime, however, it's pretty much all business at all times.
“We're basically locked on campus. You can't get off campus unless your parents or grandparents are here, and even then you can only be off campus for like three hours or something like that,” Shelton said. “COVID protocols are really strict, which I understand. They have to be safe. We're really not even supposed to be in each other's rooms. We can hang out in the common area of our dorms and outside, but we can't go in each other's rooms. So, we're really kind of constricted with what all we can do right now. We're mainly just playing video games and hanging out outside. Getting some extra work in is just an extra excuse to get with some people, so that's been good. That's positive.”
Aside from Booker and Aliou Bah, both of whom played a role in getting Shelton to enroll at IMG, he said he’s also become friendly with a few other prospects, including Knijeah Harris, Dylan Lopez, Jack Pederson and AJ Duffy. Shelton has also spent recent weeks getting to know Penn State’s new offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich.
“I’ve talked to him a couple times. He’s very passionate. I like that,” he said. “Obviously, his resume speaks for itself. I’m excited to see what he can do.”
Since arriving at IMG Academy, Shelton has added offers from both Florida State and Miami. He already held an offer from Florida. Shelton has earned two dozen scholarship offers total. Arizona State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford, Virginia Tech and West Virginia were among other schools.
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