As the Browns' 2016 season progressed, the chorus of support and praise for Danny Shelton grew with each passing week.
Hue Jackson, defensive coaches and Shelton's teammates kept saying the same things: The second-year nose tackle had improved so much from an up-and-down rookie campaign that he was quickly becoming one of the best at his position. When Pro Bowl voting came and went, Jackson and others expressed their disappointment about Shelton not being included.
"Danny, man, he has been dominating in there," linebacker Christian Kirksey said during the season. "When you turn on the film, you see him running around the field and controlling the line of scrimmage so that is definitely a positive when you look at Danny."
Those words resonated with Shelton, but so did the ones he heard outside of the Browns locker room.
Shelton got his third and fourth cracks against the centers and guards of the AFC North this season. By now, they know who he is and he knows them. And the more they've seen of Shelton, the better they believe him to be.
Shelton said the respect he felt from his peers was as meaningful as it gets.
"It's something I'm really proud of because these are guys that last year I tried to prove myself to," Shelton said. "Last year, it's kind of like I was the guy they knew they were going to have to watch because if they're not focused then I'll take advantage of that. This year, they had to do a little more to stop me."
Shelton wants that respect to grow even more in 2017, his third season in the league.
He made the proper offseason adjustments at this time last year, incorporating mixed martial arts and other training activities that allowed him to drop his weight to a level that satisfied Jackson and his staff. He maintained that weight throughout the season, and it served as one of the main reasons behind his second-year surge.
The next step? Shelton said it centers on how to better battle through the nicks and bruises a player at his position takes on a weekly basis over the course of four months. He never missed a game, but Shelton admitted it was a grind as he dealt with various injuries to his wrist, shoulder, knee and neck.
The best news for Shelton? There's a source who knows a thing or two about sustained excellence and playing through pain just a few lockers down from him.
"I'm just looking forward to the years to come and learning from our vet guys like Joe Thomas in terms of taking care of my body throughout the season so I'm not as sore or beat up," Shelton said. "That's going to be my goal next year going into this offseason. Training like a Pro Bowler. When it comes time to meet up in training camp, I'll be ready and hopefully playing at my top physical shape."