2014 Wuerffel Trophy Winner Deterrian “D.T.” Shackelford speaks to the youth during Florida visit
“Name something that you want to have, but you can’t buy with money,” the 2014 Wuerffel Trophy winner asked the 40 or so high school and middle school athletes in the Choctawhatchee High School gymnasium.
Your reputation. Love. Friends. Your character. Just a few of the answers the teenagers provided.
“Don’t chase money,” he said more than once. “Your character and the person that you are, those are the things that matter most. Trust me. I’ve been where you are.”
Shackelford was a highly recruited football player out of Decatur, Alabama. SEC schools such as Tennessee and Auburn made offers. In the end, he chose Ole Miss.
“Things were great. I was the leading freshman tackler in the conference. Starting middle linebacker as a sophomore, ” he explained. “Ready for the pros in 2 years.”
Then the worst thing that could happen, did. He tore his ACL. Then, when rehabbing it, he tore it again.
“No NFL for me,” Shackelford told them. “I had to go to Plan B. Make sure you have a Plan B!”
The linebacker continued one of the habits he started as a youth. Excelling in the classroom.
“Habits are heard to break,” he emphasized. “So if they’re hard to break, make sure that those habits are good ones. Studying. Making grades. Working hard in the classroom.”
But, it didn’t happen without peer pressure. “Oh, man. I used to hear ‘D.T., you’re a nerd. D.T., what are you doing studying on Friday night? You want to go out with us or be a nerd?'”
He put those habits to work in Plan B at Ole Miss. He was Academic All-SEC. Academic All-American. He collected a lot of hardware in his 6 years at Ole Miss, but there’s one he’s the most proud of.
“This one (the Wuerffel Trophy). Because it’s about my character,” Shackelford said.
“Your high school principals sitting right over there. I’m gonna give them my phone number. You call me, anytime, 24-7. If you need to talk, call me. I’ve been in your shoes. Remember, your character matters.”
When he offered up autographs and pictures, they lined up. Shackelford then played some one-on-one basketball with a few of them until it was time to leave.
The somewhat small turnout didn’t matter. “If I can help one of them, make a difference in just one of their lives, it’s worth it.”
Words from a man of character.