LAFAYETTE, La. — The LSU football team will unleash a King without his Kong.
Four-star defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, the No. 1 player in Louisiana for the class of 2017, signed with LSU back in February. But Shelvin wasn’t supposed to be the only top-rated defensive tackle to sign with LSU. There was also 5-star Marvin Wilson, a Houston product who ultimately chose Florida State over Baton Rouge.
Shelvin and Wilson are close friends. They text and they communicate through Snapchat. They even came up with a group nickname for one another on Wilson’s official visit to LSU: King and Kong. Shelvin, the 370-pounder, was King. Wilson, the leaner and taller tackle, was Kong.
But on National Signing Day, Kong surprised King. Shelvin, and 4-star LSU linebacker signee K’Lavon Chaisson, were sure Wilson would come to LSU. And they were wrong.
“I was watching it when he pulled out those shoes,” Shelvin said. “He betrayed me. We were like brothers. I thought he was coming. Me and Chaisson thought he was coming. Chaisson, he actually went to his commitment. When he took off his jacket and had his FSU shirt on and put on his shoes, I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ But I was proud of him.”
Shelvin smiled through that story, telling it more like a man ragging on a friend than a rebel with a grudge. But it should come as no surprise that a guy like Shelvin feels betrayed by a lack of loyalty. Because loyalty, as it so happens, is what Shelvin is all about.
First come, first serve
As much as it might hurt some LSU football fans to hear, Tyler Shelvin grew up an Alabama fan. He doesn’t remember why, he just gravitated toward the Crimson Tide.
But near the end of his freshman year of high school, Shelvin got a call from then-LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. And the next three years of his life wrapped up then and there.
“When Coach O called me and I talked to him, I was committed on the spot,” Shelvin said. “Other schools started coming in and I had to adjust to it. But I made a promise to Coach O that I was going to stay with him.”
Shelvin didn’t shut down his recruitment after he committed. He said he wanted to “get the fun in” while he could. And Shelvin took advantage of the fun, accepting offers and taking visits across the Southeast. Eventually, Alabama came knocking.
If Alabama is interested in you, you don’t say no. Not because you’re interested, mind you, but because Alabama has a way of not letting you. The facilities, the tradition. All of it made sense to Shelvin. He understood the allure.
But LSU was first.
“LSU was always in the lead,” Shelvin said. “First come, first serve like they always say. They showed me so much love. I couldn’t betray them.”
Alabama pushed hard. Before Shelvin was “King,” former Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis nicknamed Shelvin “The Dancing Bear,” because of how quick the big man was on his feet. The Tide called Shelvin so often that Coach O joked that Shelvin needed to tell them to leave him alone.
But after Davis was fired by Alabama, Shelvin lost interest. It was still hard to say no. He doesn’t like saying no to anyone who is offering him college tuition for free, especially a perennial national contender that told him he would compete to start as a freshman.
Plus, Shelvin felt good about having the opportunity to make a name for himself in his home state, whether or not Wilson was beside him.
“I knew I was going to make an impact on my city. Bringing somebody else in is cool and whatnot, but I’m going to make a statement.”