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October 9, 2013Former Michigan football player Aaron Shea was in town for Homecoming festivities last weekend, collecting hardware as he was named the School of Kinesiology's Early Career Achievement Award recipient.
A member of the Cleveland Browns front office, Shea is a Kinesiology grad that is among several former Wolverines who have signed/donated items to www.mgoauction.com to help raise money for undergraduate scholarships.
Shea was a 19-game starter for the Wolverines from 1996-99, lining up at fullback his final two seasons after being a tight end. He caught 68 balls for 574 yards and five touchdowns during his career, including 54 receptions as a fullback. His 38 grabs in 1999 are the most ever by a Michigan fullback in a single season.
While a success athletically - he was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns and spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Browns (2000-05) and San Diego Chargers (2006) - Shea had left Ann Arbor without finishing his degree.
"After the Alabama game in 1999, I was one class short," Shea said. "I said I would come back, and Lloyd [Carr] was on me weekly. Coach taught us that at Michigan you are expected to be both a football player and a student. He always preached academics. So he was the reason I came back, and I'm happy I did now to show my kids that degree."
Shea is working with the Browns as the Director of Player Engagement and was on the practice field when he learned the School of Kinesiology was set to honor him.
"My wife said, 'Congratulations on this award,' and I had no idea what she was talking about," Shea said, with a laugh. "It means a lot to me because I really easily could have just given up. Between Lloyd and Shelly Kovacs it was my last year with the Browns and I knew I was leaving and going to the Chargers, and that was the right time for me to finish school, and that's what I did."
After his NFL career ended, Shea was enjoying his life as a stay-at-home dad, retired, but it wasn't long before he found himself yearning to get back into the game in some capacity.
"Our old owner at the Browns, Randy Lerner, said he would hire me when I retired," Shea recalled. "He said listen, 'You went to one of the best schools in the country. You're a sports management major, and I know you're overqualified. So what do you want to do?'
"I didn't know where I could help. He asked me whose job he thought I could do, and there were seven VPs that turned their heads, and I laughed and thought I needed to do this right. I interned. Saw the organization from the inside and then went into suite sales. I didn't love it. This Director of Player Engagement position came open and I applied.
"Coach [Mike] Holmgren at the time asked me if I was going to stick with the Browns if I didn't get it but I said I was going to go back to Michigan and see if there was something there. He told me he wouldn't let me go to Michigan. He loved Michigan, and Lloyd and him were close, but he didn't want to see me leave."
Though he is not a coach, Shea does mentor many of the Browns' players, including tight end Jordan Cameron, who has been a breakout player this season for Cleveland in catching 33 balls for 396 yards and five touchdowns in five games.
Living so close to Michigan -- a neighbor of Jake Ryan's parents -- Shea follows his former team closely and has adopted a new appreciation for the Ohio State rivalry.
"I've always hated Ohio State but now I truly despise Ohio State because of how the fans are over the top," Shea said. "I love where I live. I love my family and the Browns organization, but the Ohio State fans are unbearable."