By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
On July 4th New York Jets rookie offensive tackle Brandon Shell, like millions of other Americans, attended a family cook-out. It was the customary family, food and fun. Included in part of the conversations, also not unusual, was some sports talk. What was a little more unusual than most other families was that the sports talk took place between Shell and Pro Football Hall-of-Fame offensive tackle and former Oakland Raiders head coach, Art Shell, his great-uncle.
Growing up in South Carolina, football was a constant for the Shell family. Not only his Uncle Art, but almost all of the men in Shell’s family had played football in one form or another. So, when he started playing at the age of 13, Shell already had the goal of playing in the NFL in mind.
Shell, who was born in 1992, three years after his uncle’s Hall of Fame induction, has long been a student of the game and made sure he did everything he could to continually better himself.
Transitioning from high school to college was the first time he hit a frustrating challenge.
“I red-shirted my freshman year so it was hard going from high school, being that guy who played every game to not playing at all,” Shell said. “I had to pull myself together and say, ‘My time is going to come,’ and when it came, I just focused and listened to the coaches.”
Ultimately, Shell had 47 starts with the South Carolina Gamecocks and became adept at playing both left and right tackle, preparing him for the next phase of his football life as a fifth-round selection by the Jets in the 2016 NFL Draft.
His uncle’s advice and support over the years was certainly advantageous, but Shell points out that it’s one thing to have access to that kind of support, but it’s another to make the commitment to implementing it.
“It’s stuff that you can either take and run with it, or not take it at all and not do anything with it. I decided to take it and run with it because coming from a legend like him and being in the family he’s not going to steer me wrong.”
As he prepared to transition into the NFL Shell made sure to take guidance in all areas, from the physical to the business side.
“I really don’t look at him as a Hall-of Famer, he’s just my uncle who I can go to for advice,” Shell said. “But he’s also a good tool for me. He told me how to do my interviews and helped me work on stuff for my game and I watch film with him. I ask him what kind of set should I do (against the defense) and he gives me options and when I’m with him he demonstrates for me. I’ve always tried to pick his brain.”
But Shell, who is excited every day about being in an NFL training camp, also takes advantage of everyone else around him who can help him get better, from his coaches to the current Jets veterans, especially because of the elevated level of competition and responsibilities.
“It’s a very high competition level,” he said. “The playbook, I usually get that down pat but every practice you’re still learning the playbook so it’s kind of overwhelming but it’s what you’ve got to do.”
Shell’s NFL story is still to be written, but he has taken every opportunity to put himself on the right path to achieve success.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.