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Danny Shelton thrilled to return to Browns after graduation

It was one of the biggest nights of Danny Shelton's life, and the massive defensive lineman capped it off with a little biological anthropology homework.

This wasn't a result of procrastination from the Browns' first of 12 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was planning ahead, knowing that the following day, when he went through a whirlwind arrival in Berea, he wouldn't have time to complete the assignment by its due date.

Graduating from the University of Washington was one of Shelton's top priorities, and he'll officially accomplish it when he partakes in a whopping four ceremonies this weekend in Seattle. How he achieved it required a whole lot of stress, time management and sacrifice down the home stretch.

"It's something on my checklist I need to do and it's something my mom required for me," Shelton said. "She wanted me to have a degree before I went into the NFL. This is my way of kind of making her even more happy."

Shelton's path to graduation stretched to mid-June because Washington is on the quarter system. NFL rules do not permit a player to leave his school mid-semester or mid-quarter to participate in his new team's offseason workout program. Even if Shelton had wanted to put off his graduation for another time, he would not have been permitted to participate in the Browns' OTAs.

Shelton's last on-field action was the week after the draft at the Browns' rookie mini-camp. He'll be back Tuesday for the start of veteran mini-camp.

"Coming in, I'm going to be mentally prepared," Shelton said. "I'll have my plays down for sure and as far as being there physically, I'm not going to rush into things and start trying to dominate, create a dominant force right away. I'm going to work with the team."

Shelton said he explained his situation to every team that interviewed him throughout the pre-draft process. The Browns, he said, have been "great," as defensive line coach Anthony Weaver has been in regular contact with him and ready to answer any and all questions Shelton has about the playbook.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said the team didn't hold Shelton's looming absence from OTAs against him in the slightest and stressed that while there's no substitute for being with the team, it likely won't "put him behind tremendously."

"By the time we get to a little bit into training camp," Pettine said, "it'll be an afterthought."

Shelton called his return to campus after rookie mini-camp "a little weird." At one of his first classes, his professor announced Shelton's big news to the class and the room roared in applause.

The following weeks were all business, Shelton said, as he worked around the clock on assignments for his biological anthropology and women's studies classes. He had two mid-terms on the Monday following the draft and had plenty of make-up assignments to complete. When he wasn't studying, he was blowing off steam in the weight room.

As Shelton talked last week, his sense of relief was clear. He used the same kind of language to describe his approach to finals as he would breaking down one of his bull rushes.

"I've got two finals," he said, "to dominate."

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