Pac-12 Q&A: Washington DL Danny Shelton

Washington defensive lineman Danny Shelton is third in the Pac-12 with 7.5 sacks and is a huge part of what the Huskies have been able to do defensively this season.

His team is coming off a road loss to Oregon but welcomes No. 14 Arizona State to Seattle on Saturday. Shelton chatted with the Pac-12 blog earlier this week and took questions ranging from his Huskies to his husky (yes, he owns a husky).

Halfway through the season, what’s your grading of the Washington defense?

DS: B+. I feel like we just haven’t really dominated like we can. We’ve missed too many tackles in every game we’ve played. We let a lot of teams score. We’ve had a lot of mistakes and a lot of missed opportunities and that’s something that great defenses shouldn’t have.

Your team is coming off a loss to Oregon. At halftime, the Ducks led by 22 points and had amassed 380 yards of offense. What were the conversations like in the locker room at half?

DS: Just to keep our heads up. We had the second half to take over and we wanted everybody to focus on their job. We didn’t want people to be like super humans and do other people’s jobs, that just tears up a defense. I feel like if we would’ve kept playing like we did in the first half we would’ve had serious problems at the end of the game.

[Note: The Huskies allowed just 77 rushing yards and 97 passing yards in the second half, though they still gave up 17 second-half points.]

You’re balancing a lot (teaching, classes, an internship), what has that balance been like this season?

DS: Kind of tough, but I never really want to show that it’s tough. It gets stressful, but I find time in my day to relax and try to get my mind off everything. I like to have complete focus on what I’m doing at the moment so when I’m at football practice I’m going to be locked in and when I get home I want to be completely focused on my dogs, just relaxed. When I go to class, be focused on class and my internship. Just trying to stay consistent with focusing.

How do you relax?

DS: Watch movies. Take my dogs on a walk. Listen to music.

When you said “focused on your dogs,” I assumed you were referring to your Husky teammates. You mean you actually have four-legged friends?

DS: Yes. I have a husky (Juicy) and a pitbull (Moni).

How did you come to own two dogs as a college senior?

DS: Really, I just wanted more responsibility. … That’s when I got my pitbull. I got her leading into my junior year. I had a teammate that I was living with and we would switch of taking care of her. I got her when she was a baby, so it was a point in my life when I had to grow up and act more like an adult, eliminate distractions. … That was part of my change. And then late in my junior year I decided I wanted to get another puppy with my girlfriend. At the time it seemed smart, but it has been kind of tough. We’ve been doing great.

What’s the hardest part about owning two dogs as a student-athlete?

DS: It’s having the energy to take them out and play. I get home and I’m tired from my day and I take them out for a walk. They’re super hyper when they get back inside. They want to play but I’m too tired to take them to the park. They run around my whole house. My mom would probably not be proud of it. It’s a little messy.

You’re No. 5 in the nation in sacks. Your teammate Hau'oli Kikaha leads the nation in sacks. What’s practice like with you two?

DS: We always kid around. We just like having fun. I don’t know about Hau’oli, but I never really think about the national statistics. I just have fun competing against Hau’oli. Every Sunday or Monday when we meet up and go over game film we tally up who had better production. It’s always a competition between us. It’s just fun. It’s kind of like a brother rivalry.

Let’s play a word association game. I’ll give you a teammate or coach or yours, you tell me the first thing that pops to mind…

Coach Chris Petersen: Life changer

Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski: Old school

Hau’oli Kikaha: Eight the great

Shaq Thompson: My son

Jaydon Mickens: Spontaneous

John Ross: Too fast