Update, Tuesday 1:41 p.m. CST: Shelton is among the 17 undrafted rookies announced by the Cardinals this afternoon.
Our original story remains below.
After a standout career in cardinal and white, another Wisconsin Badgers standout has found a home in the NFL.
After he wasn’t selected in this weekend’s 2017 NFL Draft, cornerback Sojourn Shelton will sign with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. KSTP’s Darren Wolfson first reported that the four-year starer would be heading to the NFC West organization, with Shelton later tweeting out the same.
Genetics gave me 5'9 but I always been in the underdog role !!!! Y'all know I can play. AZ in a couple weeks ! LES WORK !— Sojourn Shelton II (@_SDS8) April 29, 2017
The 5’9, 177-pound Shelton started a Wisconsin-record 51 games while tying the program record with 54 played. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native ranks fourth all-time in pass breakups (32) and sixth in passes defended (41). He was part of the winningest class in school history (41 wins) and graduated from UW with a Life Science Communications degree in December.
Shelton addressed his college career and the draft process during Wisconsin’s pro day on March 15.
“Coming in a freshman four years ago, however long that was, 150 pounds. From the doubts being 5’9, just stuff like that, just to be able to find a way to be successful on the field,” he said. “Off the field, graduated in December. Just a lot of things that you wanted to accomplish I can say I delivered to check some of those things off of the list. The things I didn’t accomplish, God willing, hopefully I’ll have another opportunity a couple of months down the road to be on an NFL team and try to accomplish those things there.”
Sojourn Shelton reflects on NFL Draft journey (B5Q/YouTube)
Last season, Shelton earned first-team All-Big Ten honors (media) and second-team by the coaches after intercepting four passes and leading the Badgers with 12 pass breakups.
Shelton led a secondary that overachieved in Jim Leonhard’s first year as defensive backs coach, often matching up against the best opposing wide receivers. One of the senior leaders on its defense, Wisconsin finished in the top 10 in the FBS in several categories, most notably fourth in scoring defense (15.6 points allowed per game), seventh in total defense (301.4 yards allowed per game) and 10th in team passing efficiency defense (106.91).
Where Shelton fits into the Cardinals’ defensive scheme remains to be seen. Many have projected him to slide into the middle to be a slot cornerback for an NFL defense. He will have a chance to learn from some of the league’s best defenders in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
In preparing for the NFL Draft, he trained for combine drills in Madison under strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej and also made trips up to Minneapolis to train with 11-year NFL veteran Tyrone Carter.
Despite a smaller frame, Carter—a former Minnesota Gophers standout—believes Shelton’s work ethic makes up for any questions about size.
“His drive and the way his confidence level is, shoot, I always say, ‘5’9 with a soul of a 6’4 cat.’ I see that in him, man,” Carter said. “The guy doesn’t waiver. He continues to grind. He continues to set the challenge. You look at him, when he’s playing the one-on-ones, playing in the games, he followed the best receiver every where they went, and it didn’t matter about no size or height. That cat played. He could jump, he’s fast, he’s aggressive at the line, so I don’t really see that height really playing a factor with this kid.”