At an agile 6’7”, having a wide receiver like Ryan Shelton is a quarterback’s dream-come-true. Shelton, a Wrightwood, California native, lived and breathed football throughout his high school years with the goal of playing in college motivating him through every practice.
“My hometown was all about football – even at away games there were more fans supporting us than the other teams,” explained Shelton. “Football was so much a part of my future plans I did everything I could to be the best. I even joined the track team so I could get faster.”
His hard work paid off. Shelton ran track and played football in junior college and, after transferring to the University of San Diego, was poised to step onto the field of his dreams. But a shoulder injury just before the first game kept him on the sideline.
“I wasn’t able to play football because of my injury, but I kept training. A friend of mine told me about the novice rowing team. I decided I’d give the sport a try, because it would keep me in shape for when I was ready to return to the football field,” said Shelton.
After a brief stint, Shelton decided rowing wasn’t for him. But a persistent novice coach finally convinced him that with his build and athletic background, he could have a tremendous collegiate rowing career, and Shelton came back to the team at the end of the semester.
“It wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave football; I really agonized over it. But with an injury like mine, I knew playing football meant risking re-injury or worse, permanent damage to my shoulder. The same risks just aren’t in rowing because it’s a non-contact sport. I knew with rowing I had so much to gain, like new experiences and new friends. And I could always return to football. So I went for it.”
The same drive and determination that made Shelton a great football player make him a powerhouse in the boat.
“Years of training for football – from heavy lifting to coordination drills – have given me a good base for rowing. The experiences I had in football shaped me into a disciplined athlete and set me up to have a large amount of success in rowing. And now I’m training at the USRowing Oklahoma City National High Performance Center with a shot at making the National Team and representing the USA at the 2012 London Olympics. It’s the experience of a lifetime – it amazes me.”
Shelton is one of nine athletes currently in residence at the OKC National High Performance Center, which focuses on developing athletes to represent America at international competitions.
“The support for athletes in this community never ceases to amaze me,” said Shelton. “It has really helped make it easier to dedicate myself to rowing and move to a new city because I feel like I am in good hands – between the community, coaches and the guys I’m training with. And that’s a perfect set up for me to focus on my next goal – to win a gold medal for Team USA.”