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MCGILL: Selby Gave Heart, Body and All He Had to Herd Football

Michael Selby.
Nov. 7, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Michael Selby tried. He gave everything to Marshall football until his body couldn't give it anymore.

In the practices leading up to the Thundering Herd's game against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 29, the 6-foot-2, 296-pound senior from Sandersville, Georgia, twice attempted to compete with his brothers on the football field. On Tuesday of that week, Selby practiced with the scout team to see if his injured left shoulder could allow him to adequately play his position. A day later, Selby welcomed a full-contact practice to determine, once and for all, if the right guard with 33 career starts would be able to start a 34th game and beyond.

"I could deal with the pain but I couldn't deal with the fact that I couldn't use my shoulder and I couldn't block people," Selby said. "I couldn't deal with the fact that I could let the team down by being out there and being selfish. I knew me being out there was going to hurt the team."

Selby injured his left shoulder Oct. 15 against Florida Atlantic. The verdict: torn rotator cuff. He needed surgery, which meant his collegiate career was over. He called his father, also named Michael, to inform him of the news. It was a difficult phone conversation.



"Football is part of who he is," Selby Sr. said. "I always told him that his self-worth is not based on what he does on a football field, it's not what defines him, but football means so much more to him than a lot of people."

The younger Selby's time on the football field dates back to when he was 7 years old. He didn't tower over anyone in flag football, but he was too big to stay at that level, so he moved up to compete against older kids.

Selby started at right guard. He played there all but one season - his sophomore year at Washington County High School. Instead, he starred at defensive tackle and looked to be a promising defensive prospect for colleges. He didn't play consistently there his last two seasons of high school football, though, so his major college interest came on the offensive line.

He entered the 2016 season as the Herd's active leader in career starts - one season at center and the rest of the time at right guard. He became known for his leadership and his toughness.

Levi Brown, also a Marshall offensive lineman from Georgia, remembers connecting with Selby on a recruiting visit. He also recalled seeing him on the field earlier this season at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the third or fourth offensive drive of the game, and seeing Selby's ring finger on his right hand dislocated and pointing away from his other four digits.

"You keep going," Selby said. "When I went to the sideline they put (the finger) back in place and I didn't miss a play."

That dedication will stick with Brown, a center who played directly to the left of Selby and has rarely left the field this season.

"He personifies what a great offensive lineman should be," Brown said. "On the field and off the field, so this is heartbreaking. This is his last little bit of playing, this is all he's got, and it's heartbreaking to see it happen to someone I look up to."

Selby had surgery Oct. 31. He anticipates four-to-six months of rehabilitation, and then he will make an attempt to play football professionally.

"I have played four years here and this game has pretty much been my life," Selby said. "I think it'd be unfair to myself to not try and play at the next level. I love the game and I'm not ready to say bye yet."

Until then, Selby is an extra coach and voice for his teammates.

"I'm always going to give this team everything I've got," Selby said, "whether it's on the sideline or on the field."

He is still watching film, still encouraging his team, still traveling with the team so he can be with the team. It was days after shoulder surgery and Selby told his father he was going to travel to Norfolk, Virginia, to watch Marshall play at Old Dominion.

"He's four or five days removed from surgery," Selby Sr. said. "But he wanted to be with his team."

That is the heart and determination that will be Selby's legacy at Marshall University and inside the school's football program. Perhaps he will channel that into a coaching career down the road, but for now he is focused on his final weeks with his teammates; he has his mind set on rehabbing his shoulder; he has goals of becoming a pro at something he has loved since the days of outgrowing flag football.

"Don't count him out," Selby Sr. said. "Not so fast. He's that underdog. If someone doubts him, you don't know my son. You don't know his determination. I wouldn't bet against him. I'd put my money on him any day over somebody who has both arms working right now."