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New Lions nose tackle Danny Shelton doesn't buy into mission impossible

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Danny Shelton has been through enough adversity in his 26 years of life that the idea of helping the Detroit Lions claw out of the basement of the NFL is a challenge he's drawn to tackle head on. 

The 345-pound nose tackle, once a top college prospect who was selected No. 12 overall in the 2015 draft, agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with the Lions on Wednesday

Defensive tackle Danny Shelton and the Lions agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal Wednesday.

In Detroit, he'll be tasked with replacing Damon Harrison, one of the league's premier run-stuffing defensive tackles the past decade. As far as Shelton is concerned, bring it on. 

"Yeah, I mean I've always been a fan of Snacks since I came into the league," Shelton said. "He's always been a guy talked highly of, just his ability to make plays. I feel like we're really similar in our skill set, being able to stop the run, being able to apply pressure. For me, it's kind of like a priority. I'm a competitive guy, so I'm always trying to make as many tackles as I can, just challenge my teammates running to the ball, trying to make some plays."

Shelton comes to Detroit following a two-year stint in New England. After spending his first three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he was traded to the Patriots for a draft pick. It wasn't immediately a match made in heaven as he slid down the team's depth chart and was a healthy scratch multiple times at the end of the 2018 season. 

A free agent last year, Shelton opted to re-sign with the Patriots on a one-year, prove-it deal. It was a humbling decision, but he prove it, setting career-highs in tackles and sacks. Now, he's hoping to take the lessons he learned there to Detroit, which is effectively an offshoot of New England's culture under the stewardship of coach Matt Patricia. 

"Entering the Patriots, it took me a little bit to buy in and perform to Bill's (Belichick) standards," Shelton said. But I think it's been an awesome experience to kind of learn another system and grow with it. 

"The thing that stood out to me the most is the teamwork aspect of it," Shelton continued. "It's something different compared to other teams I've heard about and being with the Browns organization. It's like another level of expectations and everyone is more focused and accountable."

In terms of success, going from New England to Detroit could be a culture shock for just about anyone. But Shelton has survived through much worse. And that's not talking about his three years in Cleveland, another perennial cellar-dweller. 

No, the greatest adversity Shelton has had to overcome was the tragic death of his older brother, Shennon Shelton, who was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight in the family's hometown of Auburn, Washington. 

At that time, Danny was a senior in high school and he credits a support network of family and football for helping him through those dark days.  

"I had a great support front," he said. "Support from the family, support from the team, and it just really helps me keep my life in perspective and the possibilities of being able to provide for my family and continue to represent my family. That kept me going."

It was shortly after Danny got his first dog, a pit bull named Moni, who gave him an added sense of responsibility. He and his wife Tamara now have four dogs and recently welcomed a son into the world, whom the couple named after Shennon. 

"I feel like every year, a new blessing comes," Shelton said. 

It's easy to joke and say playing for the Lions isn't exactly a blessing, but Danny sees it differently. 

"Obviously, it would have been cool to be in New England again, but I think it's more fitting for me to be part of the Detroit Lions organization and contribute as much as I can, knowing your guys' history," he said.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers