SDSU’s Shields shines in the classroom and on the field
For many Division 1 athletes, their sport is their top priority. Skipping class or putting aside homework to get some extra rest is a common occurrence, and performance on the playing field is often more important than performance in the classroom.
For San Diego State football player D.J. Shields, however, this is not the case.
“Ever since I was younger, I’ve always been into school and enjoyed it,” Shields said. “I realized at an early age that if I put a lot of time and effort into it, it would get me places in life. I knew I was here to play football, but I also wanted to take full advantage of my opportunity to get an education.”
A native of San Diego, Shields grew up in Bonita, Calif. and attended Bonita Vista High School. A versatile athlete, he played football, basketball and baseball in high school.
At Bonita Vista, Shields excelled in the classroom as well as on the football field. He earned over a 4.0 GPA, and had 44 catches for 532 yards his senior year. He was named the Mesa League’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2007.
After receiving multiple scholarship offers, Shields, who grew up watching SDSU football, chose to stay close to home and play for the Aztecs.
Shields redshirted in 2008, but saw action immediately as a redshirt freshman. He played in all 12 games in 2009, finishing the year with 11 catches for 109 yards.
In 2010, Shields was a big contributor once again, playing in all 13 games and scoring his first career touchdown. He also recovered two onside kicks to help secure a victory in a crucial game against No. 23 ranked Air Force.
Although the onside kick recoveries didn’t show up in the box score, they were arguably two of the most important plays of the season, as they helped SDSU defeat a ranked opponent for the first time in 14 years.
On top of his accomplishments during the season, 2010 was memorable for Shields because he was able to help the Aztecs defeat Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl in his hometown.
“The Poinsettia Bowl is one of my most memorable moments,” Shields said. “It was cool going from 2-10 my first year to a bowl victory. It was also special that it was here in San Diego, because all my family and friends got to watch.”
Shields played in seven games in 2011, missing multiple games due to a foot injury that hindered him all season. Ironically, he recovered an onside kick against Air Force once again, when SDSU defeated the Falcons in another close game.
Never straying away from his mentality about education, Shields has also had incredible success in the classroom at SDSU. A civil engineering major, he has earned a perfect 4.0 GPA in three different semesters.
For each of those semesters, Shields was awarded the Malik Award, an award presented at the annual SDSU Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet for student-athletes who achieve the department’s highest GPA.
In the summer of 2012, Shields was able to land an internship with Kiewit, a well-known construction and engineering company that is currently working on a project with the San Diego International Airport. Throughout the summer, he balanced a hectic schedule that included 40-plus-hour work weeks, summer school and daily football workouts.
After recovering from his foot injury, Shields is healthy again and has played in the first two games of the 2012 season. Once the season is over, however, he thinks it will be time for him to move on to a new chapter in his life.
“I know that once December rolls around, that will probably be it for football for me,” he said. “I feel like my body has had enough, and the best opportunities for me to succeed are using my brain in the engineering field rather than on the football field.”
Shields will graduate in May of 2013, and hopes to end up working full-time for Kiewit or catching on with another construction or civil engineering firm. As for future plans and goals, he is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his civil engineering degree.
“I passed my engineer-in-training exam last April, and that was a big step for me.” Shields said. “The next step would be to pass the PE (professional engineer) exam, but I’m not sure if I want to go down that route or stay with the construction side of things and work my way up. I’d love to be a head superintendent or a project manager.”
Although he is unsure of his future, one thing is for certain: unlike many Division 1 athletes, Shields has his priorities straight.
Highlights from the 2010 victory vs. Air Force. Shields’ second onside kick recovery can be seen at the 2:15 mark