Louisville—After a successful play-off game against Trinity High School that eventually led to winning this year’s state championship, Louisville Male High School quarterback Hayden Shelton wasn’t out touting his victory or throwing a celebration. Shelton was at his church, St. Matthews Baptist Church decorating for the holidays.
For those who know him it is no surprise that the Football Coaches Association named Shelton the 6A Player of the Year. He is a strong athlete who led his team in an undefeated season with a faith just as solid as his sportsmanship.
St. Matthews Baptist Church children’s minister David Garrard said the community knew it was going to be a good year for the football team, but it wasn’t just the winning streak that excited him.
“As the quarterback, (Shelton) would be in a position of strong influence in his school, and I was grateful because I knew he would embrace that and be a witness for Christ,” Garrard said.
He wrote Shelton a letter at the beginning of the season since the team was expected to perform well. He encouraged Shelton to live out his faith since he would be in that position of influence, and that’s exactly what Shelton has done.
“It’s fun to see young people who seem to be really sincere about faith and whom faith seems to be the most important thing in their life,” Garrard said. He calls Shelton a “muscular Christian,” referencing the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire,” saying Shelton fills that role because his skill on the field draws attention, and he uses that attention for good.
Shelton is just as involved in bringing other people toward Christ as he in on his team. He helped Garrard coach an Upward Bound basketball team, encouraging younger players to hone their skills on the court and also focus on their faith. His youth minister at St. Matthews, Brian Johnson, said Shelton is constantly trying to make sure his peers are engaged during Bible study, sometimes corralling all their cell phones into one pile.
“Even when he comes after practice, sometime he comes in (to youth group) with his dinner,” Johnson said. “In the midst of all of this it’s never been about him. He’s extremely modest.”
Johnson said there is little Shelton won’t do to serve his church community, even dressing as a Disney character to sing to children with the Baptist Fellowship in West Louisville.
Shelton hasn’t been without obstacles though. He tried out to be starting quarterback his sophomore year and was passed over for the spot. His mother Candace Shelton said he never once complained about it, but instead said it must be part of God’s plan for him. He continued with Male’s team even though he could have moved to another school.
Shelton said that obstacle made starting as quarterback during this undefeated season “extra special,” and his mother, who works with him to prep before games, said he has been steadfast in both football and his faith.
“He’s walked the line,” she said. “He’s a good representation of what a solid Christian young man should be.”
The struggle early in his high school football career isn’t the only one he has faced. Shelton also injured his shoulder late this season and had to miss one of the playoff games.
But for every football game he has played this season and before, Shelton carries with him a small pocket cross, which his family said he is frantic without. He got the cross when he was baptized and makes sure he always has it on him when he plays as a constant reminder for what it most important to him.
Shelton isn’t just active on the field though. He is the middle child in a family of five children. At school he challenges himself academically in addition to working on the yearbook staff and playing the baritone in the band.
As a senior, Shelton is now thinking about his future plans. He is hoping to play football in college, and some smaller schools in Kentucky, like Centre and Georgetown have shown interest in him as a player. Shelton and his family hope he may be able to play for a larger school, but as they wait his mother says they have faith in the Lord as his plans unfold.
When he starts college, Shelton is hoping to study math with the aim of becoming an accountant, teacher, or engineer in addition to playing on the field. (WR)