Just to put things in perspective, Utah’s nose tackle just two seasons before that was none other than
Yes, that Paul Soliai. The one who was listed at 344 pounds when the Dolphins drafted him in the spring of 2007. Quick math will tell you Shelby basically was asked to do the same job that Soliai did — at virtually 100 pounds less.
“It was an experience,” Shelby said after the Dolphins’ first practice of their three-day rookie minicamp. “It was something you’ll never forget. I think it helped me at end because if you can get knocked back on guards and centers, going out to tackles is kind of easier.”
Shelby ended up at nose tackle for the Utes because of injuries and did a commendable job for a team that ended up in the Sugar Bowl — Utah handled Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide, 31-17, in that game.
That Utah team included two defensive players currently with the Dolphins, cornerback
By the next season, Shelby was back where he belonged — at defensive end.
Looking back, Shelby doesn’t regret the nose tackle experience, even though there were some rough moments.
“I was excited at first to play, but I realized after the first practice that nose tackle was a whole other animal,” Shelby said. “But I learned from it and grew from it.”
Shelby lined up at left defensive end in both 2009 and 2010 before moving across the line to right defensive end.
His last year of college was his best, as he earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors after recording five sacks and scoring two touchdowns, the first on a fumble return against Brigham Young and the second on an interception return against Pittsburgh.
“The first one I was in the right place at the right time, but the second one is one I’ll remember for a long time,” Shelby has said about his two touchdowns. “Nobody ever expects a D-lineman to get a pick-six, so it was pretty exciting, a story I can tell in the future.”
No doubt Shelby talked about his two touchdowns with his former Utah teammates, Misi and Smith.
Although the gregarious Smith had something else on his mind at first.
“Oh yeah, first time I saw him he made a joke, told me that I should fix him food every day,” Shelby said. “That was the same old Sean I remember.
“I talked to Koa more than I talked to Sean because he kind of played the same position I played, so just tried to learn from him, the things that he learned, just coming out to the pros, the different things,, and I’ve been trying to apply the way I come out here in practice.”
Having former teammates around no doubt is a bonus for Shelby, although he says it’s not the reason he chose to sign with the Dolphins after going undrafted.
“I just looked for the best fit, where I could have the opportunity to showcase my talent and Miami was a fit,” Shelby said. “They just happened to be here.”
Shelby’s path to a roster spot with the Dolphins will be showing the team he can add a pass-rushing presence as well as contribute on special teams.
One thing that seems certain: He won’t be asked to split time with Soliai at nose tackle.