Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Danny Shelton starts by describing the experience as “awesome.”
As a member of the Chiefs’ practice squad last year — while not on the active roster — Shelton was able to watch Super Bowl LVII in spectator seats alongside his two young children, Crue and Saylor.
“They slept during the game, slept during the confetti and everything,” Shelton said with a smile. “It was just amazing as a father to be able to experience that with my kids. I didn’t think we’d ever get that opportunity.”
Still, being an onlooker for the Chiefs’ 38-35 win over the Philadelphia Eagles also brought out something else in Shelton.
“When we made it to Arizona, and realizing that I’m most likely not going to be up (on the active roster), just really motivated me: ‘I gotta be on this field.’ Next time, I need to be sharing this moment with my guys,” Shelton said. “Just looking from the stands down, I could see that it was amazing for those guys to experience that too.”
Shelton, a nine-year NFL veteran who turned 30 this week, appears to have used that inspiration for his benefit this offseason, improving his conditioning and body composition while attempting to make the Chiefs’ 53-man roster.
After first reporting to Chiefs training camp last year in the upper 350s weight-wise while struggling to cut fat with intermittent fasting, Shelton has had recent success with carb cycling. That has involved starting his week with four days of low-carbohydrate meals before mixing in a higher volume of carbs the last three days.
Since switching to that routine, Shelton has reported losing 12 pounds.
“It worked like magic for me,” Shelton said. “Energy’s been great. Feel great. Joints feel great. Everything.”
Because of that, the 345-pound defensive tackle has featured some burst in the preseason he might not have had a year ago.
One example: In the team’s first game against the New Orleans Saints, Shelton pursued a run from the back-side before gliding through the air while trying to be part of the tackle.
Shelton grinned when asked about that particular play this week.
“That was like the old Danny, back in the day. I used to be flying everywhere,” he said. “It just felt great being out there, running with the guys.”
Shelton has had some recent production, too. He had a sack in the Saints game, and in the second outing against Arizona, his 75.4 Pro Football Focus grade ranked fourth among all Chiefs defenders.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo praised Shelton on Tuesday for being one of the early defensive line standouts in training camp — a statement based primarily on how Shelton had altered his body.
Spagnuolo stopped short of giving Shelton a full endorsement when talking about a potential roster spot. He described Shelton as “an intelligent football player” and lauded him for his leadership skills, which included encouraging teammates on special teams even though that’s not part of his playing duties.
“I loved having him around here last year when he was on the practice squad. So all of those things we like,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s just the play has gotta show up, and somebody’s gotta surface for us to decide which way we’re going to go.”
Shelton, who previously won a Super Bowl with New England in the 2018 season, seems to understand his current place in the NFL ecosystem.
He’s hoping — with more good practices and a strong showing in Saturday’s preseason finale against Cleveland — that he can earn a spot on the Chiefs’ active roster.
If that doesn’t happen, though, he also knows he could be auditioning for other teams looking for D-linemen.
“I’m ready to win my third ring. That’s here, or wherever I go,” Shelton said. “Obviously, I love being here. And that would mean the world to stay here and have the family come out.”
More than anything, though, Shelton wants to prove in 2023 he can make his mark again for an NFL franchise.
And that means being on the field like he’s been in the past.
“Not saying that being on the practice squad last year I didn’t contribute, but that’s not the lifestyle I want to live,” Shelton said. “I came into the league wanting to play the game that I love, and being on the side last year, it re-motivated me. Even the Super Bowl and everything — it re-motivated me to just get back into it.”