2023 NFL Draft Podcast: Nehemiah Shelton Makes Most of Shrine Bowl
Interviewing Nehemiah Shelton DB San Jose State Spartans.
All-star games can provide a magnitude of both success and failure for NFL Draft prospects. These games are especially vital for small school players seeking their stamp of approval from NFL evaluators.
Prospects need to take advantage of every rep in practice and make it count to ensure your presence is felt when the whistle blows at game time.
Making every practice rep count, and when the whistle blows for real football. Make your presents felt.
Forty-three seconds into the fourth quarter of the 2023 East West Shrine Bowl, San Jose State Spartans cornerback Nehemiah Shelton picked off Appalachian State Mountaineers quarterback Chase Brice's throw down the field.
“Nah, I wasn’t able to keep it,” Shelton said of the souvenir football. “I tried to keep it, but the ball lady said she had to take it back. So, I had to give it back to her and just got locked back into the game.”
The potential keepsake is now a fond memory for Shelton. The most important memories are what NFL teams thought about the two-time All-Mountain West honorable mention selection (2021-22).
“Felt the week went pretty well,” Shelton said during his time in Las Vegas. “I do play corner so it’s kind of inevitable you’re going to get a ball caught on you. So, there is always room for improvement. Overall, I thought the week went great. Just wished we would have won."
“It’s great but the job is not finished. I’m still looking to get drafted, then make it on a team and play in the National Football League. It’s great to get recognized and all that but right now, it’s just all words.”
Fortunately, I have the luxury of speaking with hundreds of NFL Draft Prospects each year. Through these years of experience, certain personalities resonate. Their demeanor is contagious, with self-insurance that the task of making it in the NFL will happen.
Just a hunch.
That generic assessment doesn’t guarantee Shelton’s introduction into the NFL, however, I’d be very reluctant to think otherwise.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Sportswriter of the Year in 2022 posted on Twitter that he was told (per source) the Atlanta Falcons “really like” Shelton after working with him during the week of the East West Shrine Bowl.
Shelton wasn’t always a hot commodity. It wasn’t until he mastered the transition from receiver to defensive back in high school that his football career began to take flight.
“I didn’t have a junior year at varsity,” Shelton said. “I was a junior playing JV at the time and was switching over from wide receiver to cornerback. So, as I was making that transition, I was the only junior in my class on JV at the time. Finally, I got to start varsity the fourth game of the season. From there, I kind of ran with it. I had a pretty good season and got some accolades.”
Accolades and some notorieties still weren’t enough to get Shelton on the list of D1 schools during his time at Serra High School. Shelton had the height but not the weight. Roughly 158 pounds soaking wet, schools were reluctant to show interest in his lanky 6-foot frame.
“I was too small coming out of high school,” Shelton said. “I wanted to go D1. That was my dream all my life. So, I had a couple of the D2s hit me up, but I wasn’t really taking that. Because, at the end of the day, my dream was to go D1. I went the JUCO route. I was already a qualifier with my grades and everything. Will Harris was the San Jose DB coach at the time. He called me and said he liked me, and from there, I was locked into San Jose State because they were the first team to believe in me.”
Shelton needs just one NFL team to believe in him when the draft commences in late April in Kansas City. His frame is roughly 30 pounds heavier than in his high school days. Long and lanky is now replaced with simply long.
He went from being an afterthought to being sought after.
“I feel like my biggest strength is my length,” Shelton said, with eight career interceptions with the Spartans. I can get my hands on them at the line of scrimmage. I can bump and run with receivers, but also, at the same time, it’s hard to throw a ball over my head because I’m a long corner. The quarterback must almost have a perfect ball to get it a deep ball over my head.”
Shelton’s interception during the Shrine game captured the most attention. However, his pursuit of Louisiana receiver Michael Jefferson showed the tenacity that lies within.
Jefferson caught the ball over the middle and was headed out of bounds when Shelton came flying in and looked eager to flatten Jefferson. Shelton wasn’t coming to play paddy-cake; he was coming to lay the hammer down.
“They are going to see I’m a ferocious competitor,” Shelton said of his qualities as a football player. “I love to compete. I love to tackle. I love to come up and lay the boom when I can. So, I’m just an all-out dawg.”
So, with the all-star behind him, Shelton will return to his combine prep facility to undergo more rigorous training. Often players relish the chance to break up the testing monotony with real football.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on the 40,” Shelton said. “Obviously, being really fast and explosive. I want to be flexible and get in and out of my movements in my drills. The focus is on the Pro Day. Listen to Jordan Luallen (training at X3) hearing what he has to say. Hone in on my technique.”
Taking a line from Shelton, “right now, it’s all just words.”
This is one prospect that can make words a reality.
Nehemiah Shelton Background:
Originally from Cardena, California. Attended Serra High School. Began his college career at Long Beach City Community College. During his freshman year, he played in eleven games, totaling forty-six tackles and four interceptions. Transferred to San Jose State University prior to the 2018 season. Decided to redshirt the following season. As a redshirt sophomore, he played in twelve games, totaling forty-two tackles, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. During the shortened 2020 season, he started in all eight games, totaling thirty-eight tackles, which ranked first on the team among cornerbacks. As a redshirt senior, he started in ten games, totaling sixty-two tackles and two interceptions. He decided to use his extra year of eligibility. During the 2022 season, he played in eleven games, totaling forty-four tackles and two interceptions. Named to Phil Steele’s 2022 Mountain West All-Conference Second Team.
#23 Pos: CB Ht: 6001 Wt: 182 Hand: 0900 Arm: 3218 Wing: 7700
Hometown: Gardena, CA
High School: Serra