Wide receiver R.J. Shelton recently signed with the Pirates for the upcoming 2021 season. He is a big-play receiver, an efficient rusher, and a dangerous kick returner. Between 2018 and 2019 Shelton was signed twice and released twice by the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks. The team intended to use him as a kickoff return specialist. In 2017 Shelton signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings but was also released a few months later. Shelton’s arrival in Massachusetts will strengthen an already robust receiving core. His versatility on the field should translate well to the indoor game.
As a senior at Michigan State University in 2016, Shelton led the team in a number of offensive categories including receptions (53), receiving yards (789), and all-purpose yards (1,377). Shelton was also tied for second with 5 touchdowns. He was awarded both the Governors Award, most valuable player by his teammates, and the Downtown Coaches Club Award, outstanding senior on offense. Shelton was named All-Big Ten Second-Team by coaches and All-Big Ten First-Team by Pro Football Focus, among other accolades. Shelton also finished his Spartan career second all-time in kick return yards (1855) and second all-time in returns (80). He finished his college career playing in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
2015, Shelton’s junior year, he played in 14 games, starting in 5. He finished the season with 43 catches for 503 yards and 4 touchdowns. Shelton’s 1,051 all-purpose yards were good for second on the team. He was selected All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by coaches. Shelton contributed 49 all-purpose yards in Michigan State’s Big Ten Championship game against number-four ranked Iowa. Other season highlights included a career-high 2 touchdown receptions against Indiana and a game-high 159 all-purpose yards in the same game.
As a sophomore in 2014, Shelton saw action in all 13 games, starting in 2. He ranked third on the team with 1,114 all-purpose yards. Shelton tied for fifth on the team with 5 touchdowns, 2 rushing, 2 receiving, and 1 kick return and was named All-Big Ten Second-Team kick returner by both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele. In the Spartan’s victory over Penn State Shelton returned 3 kickoffs for a career-high 135 yards and 1 touchdown. He also compiled 117 all-purpose yards in Michigan State’s Cotton Bowl Classic victory over Baylor.
In 2013, his freshman season, Shelton played in 13 games, starting in 4. He led the team with 9 kickoff returns for 199 yards and ranked fourth on the team in rushing with 153 yards on 21 carries. Shelton’s season was highlighted in a game against in-state rival Michigan when he gained 96 all-purpose yards in the Spartans victory.
Both of Shelton’s parents played Division 1 college sports at Wisconsin. His father played football and his mother played basketball for the Badgers in the early 90’s. Shelton is entering his age-27 season with Massachusetts.