Hopewell (Aliquippa) senior Rushel Shell needed just three years, three games and two-and-a-half quarters to break the record for career rushing yards in Western Pennsylvania.
In a game against Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) on Sept. 24 with former Hopewell legend and NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett and former record holder Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry (McDonald, Pa.) both on hand, Shell broke Vernillo’s mark of 7,646 yards with a touchdown scamper in the third quarter. He later scored the winning touchdown en route to a 205-yard, three-TD performance.
Shell, the nation’s No. 24 recruit in the ESPNU 150, has been arguably the state’s top player for the last three seasons. Along the way he’s become one of the most sought after college recruits in state history, and he plans to make his college decision on Friday prior to his team’s contest against Central Valley (Monaca, Pa.) on ESPNU.
But there’s more to this stellar athlete than rushing yards and college decisions. Along the way to the record, he’s once again made Hopewell one of the state’s top teams. Shell didn’t play last week, but he says he’s ready for the nationally televised game. So what can you expect to see from the nation’s No. 3 running back?
It’s time to Get Familiar with Rushel Shell.
And if you want to Get Familiar with one of the guys trying to stop him, Central Valley junior Robert Foster, click here.
ESPNHS: So what did it mean to you when you broke the WPIAL rushing record?
Shell: It means a lot. It was a big accomplishment. But I honestly couldn’t have done it without my teammates. It was nice to do, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I am really just focused on winning a championship with my team this season.
ESPNHS: What’s the one thing you feel like you’ve really improved on from last season to this season?
Shell: Reading the hole. I’ve gotten a lot better with not looking into the ball when I get it. Not having to look at it is big because you get more of an opportunity to see what’s in front of you. That’s a job that a lot of running backs should learn how to do.
ESPNHS: You’re making your college decision on Friday. What’s it going to mean to you to finally announce your decision?
Shell: It’ll take a lot off my shoulders, that’s for sure. It’ll be nice to not think, “What am I thinking about this school or that school.” I can just move forward. But it’s been a great experience throughout the recruiting process. I’ve put a lot of thought into my decision, I’ve made up my mind and I’m pretty happy with it.
ESPNHS: What’s it mean to play football in the WPIAL? What does it stand for?
Shell: Every team is good. It’s not just the standout teams. Everyone has athletes on their team. If you don’t come out to play, you can get hit by anyone.
ESPNHS: Hopewell’s having a much better season. What are your thoughts on your team this year?
Shell: I think we can win it all. How we do this season will be determined by how far we want to go and how much effort we want to put in.
ESPNHS: You’re keyed on perhaps more than any player in the state. How do you handle it?
Shell: We’ve been strategizing on it. Sometimes they use me as decoys. Sometimes I line up at wide receiver. Whatever they’re wanting to do, that’s what I’ll do to help the team win.
ESPNHS: You were on our cover back in September. What was that like?
Shell: It was an outstanding achievement in my eyes. I thought it was great. Not a lot of people can say they were on the cover of a magazine. I’ll remember that one for a long time.
ESPNHS: You go to the same school that Tony Dorsett went to. How cool is it to follow in his footsteps?
Shell: I never compare myself to him. I’m just in high school making big plays, he’s an NFL Hall of Famer.
ESPNHS: Are you excited to play on national TV?
Shell: It’s a big deal. I’m pretty excited about it. A lot of people will be watching, and you’ve got to bring your “A” game. It’s a big opportunity that a lot of people don’t get.
POSITION: Running Back
Actor: Mike Epps
Musical Artist: Lil Wayne
Athlete: LeBron James
Clothing Line: Gucci
Video Game: NBA 2K11
NEXT UP: Shell and Hopewell take on Central Valley on Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.