By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Tigers football team is starting to become a pipeline for linemen into the Big XII.
In 2014, it was Justin Murphy that made his way to Texas Tech and is in line for a starting job for the Red Raiders this season.
Zach Shackleford is following in his path, but blazing his own trail to Manhattan, Kansas, as he verbally committed to Kansas State.
“I wanted to stay in the Big XII,” Shackleford said. “I had Oklahoma State looking at me and both are pretty good. I felt that K-State and Oklahoma State were pretty similar, Arizona State and Illinois were right there as well. Coach (Bill) Snyder has a very good coaching staff and the atmosphere has that small, college town feel to it. They all work hard and it’s a great place to be.”
Shackleford, coming up on his third season as a starting offensive lineman, has seen success in a Belton uniform, with a pair of All-District First Team honors in 2013 and 2014.
“I got a chance to get to know most of the offensive linemen up there and especially the commits for the 2016 class, so we talked regularly,” Shackleford said. “I know some of the older guys up there too.”
Belton’s collegiate pipeline really starts with the interior lines. With Tim Bower going to UMHB having played on the defensive line, Durham Smythe being a pass-blocking and receiving threat at Notre Dame and Murphy getting ready for his redshirt freshman season, the Tigers have been blessed with size on both sides of the line in recent years.
“Belton has been blessed with some big kids,” Shackleford said. “The coaching staff that we have here is excellent. So if you’re a big-bodied kid, they know how to develop you.”
Shackelford tends to excel against some of the better defensive linemen in District 12-6A. He relishes challenges and makes the most of them.
“Shoemaker’s Kendell Jones (Alabama commit) is always tough,” Shackleford said. “We’re going to have to be on point with him this season, as well as Rahsson Thornton (LSU commit). Midway always has fast defensive ends. Killeen always has quick linebackers.”
Shackleford is a senior on the offensive line and is involved with an offense that is young, his leadership will be on display.
“I am always there to help encourage our guys,” Shackleford said. “Whenever experience comes into play, you can help guys with technique, coming closer together and have fun.”