By Hayden Grove
Special to ClevelandBrowns.com
Danny Shelton walked around the Browns locker room Wednesday wearing his signature smile and a traditional lava-lava skirt, but there was a noticeable addition to his wardrobe.
After accumulating a season-high seven tackles, including one for a loss, against Seattle, Shelton earned the golden title belt awarded to the best Browns defender after each week. He wore it proudly around his waist all afternoon.
Initially joking that he defeated WWE wrestler John Cena for the belt, Shelton was proud to have earned the title. It's something he's strived to accomplish throughout his rookie season.
"It's been something that I wanted to do for a long time," Shelton said. "To compete against these guys like Craig (Robertson), Karlos (Dansby), (Randy) Starks, guys who are always getting the belt, it's pretty awesome to finally get it now."
While Sunday's game in Seattle was successful for him, Shelton has had his ups and downs during his rookie season but seems to be improving with each game.
That's a good sign, said Browns coach Mike Pettine, who has often seen the opposite occur.
"Sometimes you see rookies that kind of play well early and that starts to drop off — the proverbial rookie wall. That's not the case with Danny," Pettine said. "He's getting better."
Shelton agrees he's progressed this season and said that while it's taken a bit longer than he's expected, he's starting to understand what it takes to have success like he did in Seattle.
"The fact that it was Week (15), I've had experience now," Shelton said. "I know what to expect now. I know how to prepare for a game now."
Experience certainly helped Shelton in his breakout game against the Seahawks, but being just 29 miles from his hometown of Auburn, Wash., and having family and friends in the crowd didn't hurt, either.
"Really, it was just me feeling comfortable—comfortable in front of the crowd, comfortable in front of my family," Shelton said. "It was just an awesome feeling to be back home and to play in front of the home crowd again."
Playing in Cleveland, Shelton won't get much of an opportunity to play in front of his "home" crowd in Washington, but he will continue see the field going forward. That's the only way he'll be able to improve.
"As I've said all along, there's no substitute for live-game reps," Pettine said. "He's getting to experience against some veteran offensive linemen and learn the tricks of the trade."
Having gone through so much to earn it, Shelton is enjoying the ownership of the belt so much that he's already planning ways in which to keep it going forward.
Of course, the only way he'll be able to do so is to continue to play like he did to initially earn the title.
"Now that that's over, I got to plan my repeat because I know that Kansas City is going to be a tough one and I know that these guy want the belt," Shelton said. "It's going to be fun."