Based off his performance on the gridiron, you would've never guessed that the 2013 season was the first one of Sojourn Shelton's collegiate career.
Shelton was nothing short of a freshman phenom at cornerback for the Wisconsin Badgers, starting 12 of 13 games and grabbing a team-high four interceptions last year.
To put that into perspective, only nine other freshmen in the country had at least four picks in 2013, and no other Badgers player had more than one. As a matter of fact, the rest of the team had just five interceptions combined.
His rapid ascension into one of Wisconsin's best defensive players was a pleasant surprise for Gary Andersen and his staff because although his raw athleticism and talent were never in question, there were concerns that he was too small to be an elite cornerback.
However, he bulked up from 150 pounds to 172 by the time fall practices began, and he was soon on his way to giving Badgers fans a glimpse of just how good of a player he could end up being by the time his career in Madison comes to a close.
In addition to his four picks, Shelton also recorded 30 total tackles, the sixth-highest mark on the team, on his way to earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection from the media.
Despite all this success, his youth and inexperience did show from time to time throughout the course of the season.
A notable example that most Wisconsin fans will remember came against the Ohio State Buckeyes, when Shelton dropped an easy interception in the end zone shortly before the half. On the ensuing play, Braxton Miller connected with Philly Brown on a 40-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining in the half, pushing Ohio State's lead to 24-14 heading into the locker room.
Shelton's drop ended up being a pivotal moment that swung the momentum in what ended up being a Badgers loss.
Besides that critical dropped interception, Shelton's youth also was also shown in Wisconsin's controversial loss to Arizona State, where he was flagged once for holding and twice for pass interference, which lead to some rather unreserved reactions from Shelton.
Simply put, there were some growing pains for Shelton, which are almost guaranteed to happen when a freshman sees a significant amount of playing time.
However, Shelton's positives far outweighed the negatives, and there's every reason to believe he will be even better in 2014.
He's continued to impress his coaches with his continuous striving to improve himself, and he's shown the signs of maturity necessary for him to step up and fill the void left by Chris Borland, Dezmen Southward, and Beau Allen in Wisconsin's defensive leadership.
The Badgers' defensive backfield is also very inexperienced, so they need players like Shelton and Michael Caputo to step up.
Shelton has come out and said that his goal is to become the best corner in the Big Ten during his time at Wisconsin, and he's already made a name for himself in the conference heading into his sophomore season. Recently, college football guru Phil Steele even named him to his preseason All-Big Ten third team.
There's no reason to expect a sophomore slump from Shelton, which is good, because the Badgers simply can't afford for him to have one.