In wrestling, the bad guys are called heels. If you're real good at the job (like this guy), you can be referred to as a top heel. It can take a wrestler years to learn that craft ... to get that good. But in the case of Rushel Shell, the former Pitt running back accomplished the task in about four months.
Back in May, rumors of a Shell transfer swirled seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, so secure was his standing at Pitt viewed, that the day before we wrote about the speculation, we had a post about who Pitt's backup running back would be - behind him.
I won't run down the same tired timeline we've been over already, but the tl;dr version goes something like this: Transferred from Pitt, barred from a Todd Graham reunion at ASU, went to UCLA, denied from coming back to Pitt, transferred to WVU.
It was bad enough when we heard Shell was leaving, right? After all, Pitt had been after that kid for years and after fighting off the likes of Bama, Ohio State, and Penn State, finally got his commitment. It was like freaking Christmas or something. He had a strong freshman season, splitting time with senior Ray Graham and had the starting spot this season. Then, unfortunately, came word of the transfer.
The UCLA move didn't really hurt as much as it annoyed. I mean, who really hates UCLA that lives this far east? But after Shell decided it wasn't for him, his options were limited once Chryst said 'Thanks, but no thanks.' Kentucky would have been the choice that wouldn't have really registered too much with Pitt fans, but West Virginia? Man.
I get it. It's closer to home, it's still big time football, etc., etc. And don't forget, Shell never even played in a Backyard Brawl. He may have had some bad feelings towards the Mountaineers, but they apparently weren't that bad. Thing is, for Shell, it's not nearly as big of a deal as it is for a lot of Pitt fans.
The match will be an interesting one. He now joins Dana Holgorsen's fast-paced offense and if Todd Graham had not pulled a ... Todd Graham, it would have been something similar to what he had been doing at Pitt. Even more interesting for me, though, is the level of competition Shell will face. The Big East is a far cry from the Big 12 as West Virginia found out this past season. To say Shell can't compete there would be utter foolishness, but it will certainly be a bigger step up in class than matching up against South Florida, UConn, and Temple.
Without feeling too bad for Shell, I actually, well, feel bad for him. He couldn't possibly have imagined his career would turn out this way and he's faced a lifetime's worth of drama in like four months. He may have had very real issues, but still, kid's been through a lot. That's not an excuse of how he managed his time at Pitt and he's got no one to blame but himself, really. But as I pointed out before, he's a young, young kid that handled adversity not all that well.
And yeah, how bad would you want the Backyard Brawl, now?