Duke Shelley has been thrust into a new role.
For the first time during his Kansas State football career the senior cornerback feels like a leader.
"I lead those guys," Shelley said. "In the secondary, I am definitely a leader for those guys. As a team, as a whole, everyone looks to me as a leader. Having played here for four years, that is something that just comes with it. On top of that, being the guy I am and as vocal as I am, a leadership role comes with it. I have to be that guy."
As a three-year starter, there is little that seems new for Shelley on the football field. He has made 132 tackles and five interceptions in a K-State uniform. Last year, he saw more action than anyone else in the secondary and defended 13 passes. Still, he has entered a new world this spring when it comes to setting an example in practice and being there for teammates in the locker room.
The Wildcats expect more from him now that D.J. Reed, one of the best cover corners in the Big 12 over the past two seasons, is on his way to the NFL.
If becoming more than just a playmaker felt daunting for him at any point it hasn't shown.
“Duke has done a good job this spring," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "I would say this is probably the best spring that he has had, in my recollection. I think he's making improvements and still has room at the top, so to speak."
The main thing Shelley has tried to bring to spring practice is energy. It can sometimes be difficult to get excited about 15 practices in a closed setting when the season is months away, but he likes to slap teammates on the helmet before every scrimmage and let them know it's time to shine.
"Duke has always been a leader," K-State defensive back Walter Neil said. "He is a natural leader. Just follow his role and everything goes well."
Then he gets to work.
"He has been really consistent in everything that he does," K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. "It seems like he kind of takes this personal mantra onto the field that nobody is going to catch anything on him. That has been impressive to see, that he has just been really competitive and getting after it every day."
That attitude has rubbed off on his teammates throughout the secondary.
Though Shelley is playing alongside several new faces this spring, including Walter Neil, A.J. Parker, Kevion McGee and Jahron McPherson, and for new defensive backs coach Brian Norwood, he thinks they have produced promising results.
He thinks his senior year will be his best.
"Everything just feels like it is slowing down for me," Shelley said. "Getting in the repetitions and playing as much as I have, things just feel like they are easier."