Off the field, Texas Longhorns early enrollee center Zach Shackelford looks like a large but pretty unassuming person. He's not the type of mean mug in photos, for instance, so he's not really a candidate to be the first guy off the bus. Put him in pads or another competitive situation, however, and his nasty alter ego emerges -- Shack Attack.
Consider the story that head coach Charlie Strong told about the hard-working country kid from Belton that came from offseason workouts.
"I forgot who he was going against, but he was almost about to lose and you see him kind of come, you know, guys are running side-by-side, and he just kind of nudges this guy and tries to push him down to go win it," Strong said. "And I just started laughing. Because you knew right there he kind of had a different attitude to him."
To be sure, there's an edge that develops when mild-mannered Zach Shackelford gives way to the Shack Attack, the character that demonstrated a viciousness at Belton that resulted in a 98-percent rating from Bob Shipley's Belton staff as a senior due to 134 knockdown blocks and 87 pancakes. When Shack Attack got his hands on opponents, he worked to the whistle to make sure that they ended up on their back. More often than not in high school, they did end up on their back.
Here's the thing about Zack Shackelford and Shack Attack, though -- there's a balance that allows him to be verbal as a leader, demonstrate a strong work ethic in the weight room and on the field, but still have a lot of love for his teammates.
In fact, that sounds a lot like sophomore right guard Patrick Vahe, who showed many of those qualities last season when he emerged as a freshman starter and perhaps the best run blocker on the team.
"He's like a little brother. He reminds me of my little brothers back at home," sophomore right guard Patrick Vahe said. "He's always there whenever we need him and whenever he needs us he never hesitates to come to us. The big thing about Shack is he's a big-hearted person. He cares for the team. He wants to sacrifice this for us. So that's what I love about that guy."
Vahe has spent the spring working next to Shackelford and wasn't willing to forecast huge accomplishments for the 6'3, 296-pounder this season. But he does believe.
"Shack is going to be Shack," Vahe said. "I can't determine his fate, but I believe he's ready. Just being able to see him progress, that's a big thing I love, just seeing people moving forward."
Basically the starter at center ever since he arrived on campus, Shackelford didn't need long to convince senior right tackle Kent Perkins that Shack Attack will be a key feature of the Longhorns offense for the next four years.
"Shack has impressed me a lot," Perkins said within the first week of fall practice. "Shack came in with a mindset that he was going to work his butt off. His work ethic is amazing. I feel like in my opinion that's a future All-American right there."
If anyone tries to get in the way, Shack Attack will probably just give them a little nudge. Well, maybe it won't really be a little nudge.