Senior Shevlin still has hopes for bowl

The linebacker is taking it upon himself to get his team back on a winning course.

Luke Middendorf

A 1-4 record to start the season was not something that John Shevlin dreamt about for his senior year as captain of the football team.

But Shevlin, a 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound linebacker, said he and the Gophers have played as hard as they could so far.

He also said that it will do no good to look back into the past, as the Gophers are nearing the halfway point of the season.

“Right now, we are where we are, and I can’t change that,” Shevlin said. “You can’t do that in football. Now it’s my job as a leader to get this team in a winning direction.”

One way that Shevlin leads this young and inexperienced Minnesota team is through his toughness and tenacity on the field, which can be seen through how he seems to acquire his fair share of “battle scars” each game.

Sporting various cuts and bruises on his muscular build, Shevlin has the look of a warrior from the movie “300,” which can be seen in the clips that Minnesota plays on the JumboTron prior to games and heard through the Gophers’ chanting as they come out of the tunnel.

An Eagan native, Shevlin also carries the pride and swagger of a warrior from the film, except his pride is for Minnesota, not Sparta.

That pride turns into passion and on the field, a passion that has been strong enough to play through multiple injuries and hardships throughout his years with the Gophers.

“Looking back, five years here, that’s a long time,” Shevlin said. “I have a great sense of pride for sticking here five years and playing through injuries and naysayers.”

Shevlin has been a hard-working student-athlete from his first days at Minnesota, as he was given the Gophers’ special teams’ player of the year award as a freshman, which is also when he started his string of three straight all-academic Big Ten and scholar-athlete awards.

After a solid sophomore season in 2005 in which he started all 12 games and tied for second on the team in total tackles, Shevlin was primed for an even better season his junior year.

But due to an injury well into the season, Shevlin was unable to compete in 3 of the last 4 games and has been hampered with the aftermath of the injury ever since.

Shevlin fought through lower back pain during this year’s fall camp in order to get his reps in with the defense.

Along with fellow senior linebacker Mike Sherels, who also fought through the injury bug this fall, the two captains were able to get healthy enough to start out the season as close to 100 percent as they could get.

Coming into the year, the Gophers’ defense that featured two veteran linebackers looked like the strong point of the team, a team for which Shevlin expected big things.

But even with the rough start to the season, Shevlin’s expectations and goals haven’t changed.

“The only thing you can do is better yourself, better your teammates and improve upon your record,” Shevlin said. “Things haven’t changed for me.”

As a captain, Shevlin has many roles on a team that features a large number of underclassmen.

The senior linebacker said he is looked at to be a “face of the team,” and needs to “stay positive and make sure everyone’s mindset is right so that (Minnesota) can go out and win.”

Many of Shevlin’s teammates feel for him and his fellow seniors on the team because of the slow start.

“The seniors have done everything you could ask for,” said junior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg. “They have been great for us. It would be hard to be a senior and still be positive at a point like this, but everyone is still positive and pushing us hard.”

The positivity and enthusiasm beams out from Shevlin, as can also be seen in coach Tim Brewster.

“I think our (seniors) are very, very optimistic,” Brewster said. “I think that they feed off of the head football coach. I think they feed off of the staff.”

“If I wake up and I come in and I’m fired up and I’m excited, my football team is going to be the same way,” Brewster said.

Shevlin and some of the other seniors on the team have had the opportunity to play in three straight bowl games, and Brewster said he would like nothing more than to give them one more chance.

“Without a question, our goal is to be in a bowl game, and our seniors deserve that,” Brewster said. “We’re going to fight, scratch, and claw every football game to honor our seniors and go to a bowl game.”

From day one, Brewster has brought and emphasized the title of Gopher Nation in Minnesota, and has stressed the importance of keeping the home-state athletes at home.

Shevlin, being from Minnesota, also recognizes the importance of playing at home.

“I think all Minnesotans should stay in the state and build a winning tradition,” Shevlin said, “With the talent that we have (in Minnesota), if it stayed here, we could have a really good team, a team of real Minnesotans that has pride playing for their state.”

Shevlin also stressed the importance of student fan support this year, especially now that times are tough.

“We work hard, and we play for you guys, Shevlin said as encouragement to University students. “This is Minnesota. We’re giving it our best shot, and the outcome is how it comes. I feel that the students recognize that.”