Many people in the Seattle area have heard of Danny Shelton, the first team All-American Husky football player who, as a graduating senior was just drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the NFL draft. Danny is not only an exceptional football player; he is also first team, All-American academic team, the first Husky to receive this honor in 23 years.
Danny initially came to the UW thinking he wanted to go into law enforcement, but soon turned to anthropology where he realized he could learn about, and stay connected to, his Samoan ancestry. While at the UW, Danny has made significant academic contributions. In many interviews focusing on his football achievements, Danny always takes the opportunity to mention the importance of education and the discipline of anthropology.
Together with teammates Hau‘oli Kikaha and John Timu (recipient of the 2013 Brett Baldwin Memorial Award in Anthropology), Danny visited the Ethnology Division of the Burke Museum regularly to study the Polynesian artifacts in the collection. He conducted oral histories about the objects with family members to gain a deeper understanding of Polynesian traditions and the cultural contexts for the museum pieces.
Best of all, Danny put the Samoan concept of tautua, or giving back, into practice. As an intern in the Burke’s Education Division, he designed a curriculum about Polynesian culture for K-12 students. He also conducted tours for Pacific Islander students, the Boys and Girls Club, and other school groups. Danny and several of his teammates also guest curated an exhibit that focused on Polynesian identity and tattooing.
Danny sought out opportunities to give back on campus as well. In 2013 he participated in the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, and in 2014 he developed his teaching skills as the leader of a Freshman Interest Group (FIG). Anyone who knows Danny appreciates his quick wit. When some of the freshmen in his class asked him if he played football at UW, he told them he was on the tennis team. Always humble, Danny is much more interested in connecting with and inspiring others than in seeking the limelight for himself.
On two occasions, Danny participated in a study abroad program in French Polynesia. The anthropology course focused on colonialism in an area that is still colonized, which allowed him and his fellow students to gain a firsthand appreciation for the impacts of French colonialism on the daily lives of Tahitians. While there, Danny studied Tahitian dancing, language, navigation, legends and more. Living with a Tahitian family gave him a deeper appreciation for his Polynesian roots. During the Polynesian Student Alliance’s annual Poly Day presentations of dance and songs at the UW, Danny frequently jumped on stage to participate.