BANGOR — When Tyler Shanklin got word of his selection to this year’s All-Pine Tree Conference Class A football first team, he immediately sought out a second source for confirmation.
Nothing against the initial source, Bangor High School classmate Josiah Hartley, but given that this was Shanklin’s first year as a defensive tackle he wasn’t expecting the honor.
“It was a great feeling, I was excited,” he said. “Josiah came up to me in the hallway and told me, and then I went and checked in the office real quick to make sure it was true.”
Shanklin is one of six first-team honorees from Bangor who will be on the field Friday night when the Rams host Lewiston for the Eastern Maine Class A championship, along with defensive end John Kelley, defensive backs Joe Seccareccia and Dylan Morris, wide receiver Nick Sherwood and Hartley at tailback.
Shanklin took the most circuitous route of the bunch. He played fullback and linebacker on the freshman team in 2007, then did not play as a sophomore.
“I took the year off,” he said. “I played freshman year and didn’t really like it, but I tried it again my junior year because Joe (Seccareccia) talked me into it. I liked it last year, so I tried it again this year.”
Shanklin played fullback and linebacker on the JVs last year, then returned for his senior year hoping to crack the varsity lineup.
“My goal was to try to play linebacker and to play fullback as much as I could,” said Shanklin. “But I knew I was behind (Jon) Fader at fullback.”
By opening night, Shanklin had worked his way into the starting lineup — but at a position new to him, defensive tackle.
The Rams soared to a 49-0 victory over Skowhegan in Week 1, but for Shanklin the adjustment to line play was far from complete.
“The first game against Skowhegan I was out at halftime because I couldn’t breathe,” said Shanklin, also a defenseman on the school’s hockey team. “I was just gassed, I wasn’t in shape for it. The first year playing varsity football is hard.
“I thought I was going to be able to make it easy, but it was a lot harder than I thought it was. The next game it got easier, and throughout the season it just kept getting easier and then I started playing both ways.”
It wasn’t long before Shanklin also found himself as a key player on the other side of the line, as the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder earned a starting spot at yet another new position for him, offensive right guard.
“He was never a selfish kid, but he was pretty strong-willed about himself playing where he wanted to play,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett. “But as soon he saw the team, he said, ‘coach I just want to play, I just want to win.’ He said he wanted to play anywhere, and he didn’t just say it, he exhibited that he really wanted to do that.”
Shanklin has taken that opportunity and flourished, using his strength and quickness to rank second on the team in tackles and leading the Rams in quarterback sacks despite typically squaring off against larger offensive linemen.
“The thing is we always believe that you can go from being a skill player forward and the game gets simpler,” said Hackett. “It’s harder and more physical, but it doesn’t get more complicated as you get closer to the line of scrimmage, not in high school anyway.
“Tyler’s a smart kid and he was able to pick up what people were trying to do to him, and he’s also got tenacity and a fast motor, he keeps going all the time so he’s hard to block and he’s a hard guy to keep blocked.”
Shanklin has switched back to his original positions on occasion, moving back to fullback when Fader was sidelined by an ankle injury, but these days he’s more than happy at his new home in the trenches.
“I just worked hard, and it was easy adjusting,” he said. “On the O-line I had to learn the plays, but on the D-Line it’s mostly just hitting the guy in front of me and trying to make a play.”
Shanklin and the rest of the Rams hope to have two more weekends of making plays, but for now the focus is on Friday’s chance to win a second straight regional crown.
“We’re just concentrating on Lewiston right now,” he said.