New coach to prep for the season


Abbie Sundich

New Assistant Football Coach and Offensive Coordinator Enrico “EJ” Shelby smiles for the camera.

Aiden Lewald, Sports Reporter

As the spring semester ends with thunderstorms and periodic heatwaves, it has also become the turning of a new leaf for Hamline Football. Hamline Athletics announced on April 1 the hiring of the newest Assistant Football Coach, EJ Shelby.

Shelby has himself the grip of roles, ranging from Offensive Coordinator to Quarterback Coach and back to Recruiting Coordinator. This may be Shelby’s first time in these positions, but this is not his first time here at Hamline nor is it his first time as a football coach.

Back in 2018, Shelby worked here for the first time as a part- time receivers coach. That had been his fourth year working in college football, and he is now entering his ninth year for the upcoming 2023-24 season.

“[Shelby]’s got a big connection group as far as college coaches around the country,” Head Football Coach Chip Taylor said. “It also opens our network, not just his but it opens up my network to people that maybe I wouldn’t have an opportunity to communicate within a professional setting.”

Not only is Shelby opening up Hamline’s connection group to other teams in various conferences, but he is bringing a new, positive energy to the field. It seems that after a rough last few seasons, these Pipers need a newfound passion on the field.

“When you’re doing this kind of job, you have to have a big passion for football and care deeply about the game,” Taylor said.

With years of experience comes fresh techniques and more attention to detail. Shelby focuses on various aspects, but footwork is one of the more notable ones. As he teaches his players new techniques, new plays from the playbook, or changes up drills he takes it slow, making sure each player knows what they are meant to be doing and are comfortable doing.

Hamline sophomore quarterback Alex Villaneuva, one of the players that Shelby works with directly, points how steadily the teams footwork has improved since Shelby started attending practices in late March.

Villaneuva and the team rewatch tapes from practices, and the improvement from day one to the most recent practice truly shows the positive impact of Shelby’s coaching.

He believes that next year, thanks to the energy and intelligence of the game Shelby brings to practice, that Hamline football will be explosive on the field. Signaling that Hamline should be keeping their eyes on Hamline Football next year.

With love and passion comes dedication. Shelby not only pays attention to the Xs and Os, but he also cares about his players.

Taylor highlights Shelby’s ability to connect with the younger generation, along with his genuine care for the students he mentors.

Like all sports, a team is made up of people. Being people- oriented is a key trait in being a successful coach, and Shelby makes it very clear that growth and brotherhood are a big priority of his.

“I feel like when we came in, we were all just trying to get a feel for how Coach Shelby was,” Villanueva said. “We just had a meeting the other day and you can see how much energy we all have.”

Shelby has bonded quickly with his players, creating a safe environment for them to be themselves. In team meetings, you will find the team cracking jokes and having fun before Shelby enters the room, and even still doing so after he arrives.

Despite the change in several staffings here at Hamline Football, the players are taking it like the champions they are. They, much like the coaches themselves, are taking it one day at a time and putting full effort into each practice and each meeting.

Shelby may seem quiet and observant at first, but when you get close to him you realize why he is in the position he is in. His dedication to the game and to the people elevates his talents as a coach.

“I feel like this change could be stressful for a lot of people,” Villanueva said. “But I feel like with Coach EJ coming in, how cool, calm and collected he is, that he helps us get accustomed to the new playbook fairly easily.”

This is not Hamline’s first offensive coordinator change in the last two years, Shelby being sophomore Villanueva’s third. However, Villanueva and his fellow Pipers are excited he is here and have high hopes for the next season of Hamline football.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I don’t take it for granted,” Shelby said. “I know that I have a job to do and I know what the assignment is, and we’re going to do what we need to do to the best of our ability.”


Shelby is interviewed by first-year Oracle reporter Aiden Lewald in the Bush Center. (Abbie Sundich)