From small things, big things come.
Look at De Smet Jesuit senior Anthoine Shell II. When he was born, he weighed 2 pounds, 21 ounces.
“He’s been fighting since he came out of the womb,” De Smet football coach Rob Steeples said. “He’s tough.”
“I was born six weeks early,” Shell said. “They call me ‘Little Anthoine.'”
But in truth, it’s because his father also is named Anthoine. His mother is Ava. Today, Shell is a 6-foot, 225-pound athlete who accomplished something unique in 2019 at De Smet.
Last fall, he was a senior center for the undefeated Spartans, who topped Joplin 35-20 to win the Class 6 state championship. Last spring, while playing first base, he helped De Smet defeat Marquette 6-4 at CarShield Field in O’Fallon to win the Class 5 state baseball championship.
There is a photo of him proudly clutching both state championship trophies that drew lots of views on social media. He says the last few years have been “a crazy ride.”
“I’m just so grateful for everyone who helped me on my journey, including my coaches and teammates,” Shell said. “The fact that I have been able to raise two state championship trophies just shows how greatly I have been blessed and how when a team comes together and works hard you can accomplish anything.”
Shell spent three years on the varsity football squad and has started since halfway through his junior year.
“I like this position [center] because I’m the only other position besides the quarterback that gets to touch the ball every play,” Shell said. “I like being able to control the pace of the game and to make sure the ball gets to the quarterback safely.”
He did his job well, Steeples said.
“He’s our lightest lineman. He played a hell of a state championship game,” Steeples said. “He really got after it. They put their biggest up against him and he didn’t move. His athleticism really helped us out. He’s a consistent snapper. No play starts without the center.”
Keeping the offensive line the same in 2018 and 2019 made things easier, Shell said.
“We just picked up from last year. There was no rebuilding the bond,” he said. “The bond was not broken. We know how we play, which made us a strong unit.”
Winning the state title is a memory Shell won’t soon forget.
“Immediately after the game, we celebrated in the locker room and danced,” Shell said. “For me, I wanted to keep playing football and it felt like we just won another game. It didn’t kick in until that Monday at school when people would say, ‘Congrats, champ.'”
Shell said Steeples deserves the credit for guiding the Spartans to the title.
“Playing for coach Steeples was great,” Shell said. “I appreciated how much he cared about us as becoming young men and building character not just teaching us football.”
Winning the baseball title was a whole new ballgame. After losing to CBC in the regular season finale, the Spartans were 8-13-1. Then, district play began. De Smet never lost again. The Spartans swept their next six games to claim the state crown.
“We were not the favorite going into the playoffs but we just played for each other and we took it one game at a time,” Shell said. “Postseason started, and I think that’s when we started really playing for each other and together. We knew it was win or go home, and we just had to play hard.
“It was a great feeling coming in and being the underdog, unlike football where we were expected to win. Marquette beat us twice before in the season but we won when it really mattered.”
Shell is ready for his final baseball season this spring.
“I’m looking forward to playing again and being with my teammates,” Shell said. “We are going down to Florida this spring and we are bringing back most of the team from last year. My goal this year is to get a hit every game this year and to be able to pitch more than two innings this year.”
Can the baseball Spartans repeat as state champs and give Shell another trophy to hug?
“I think so. We have been putting a lot of time in the weight room and in the cages, more so than last year,” Shell said. “We just have to go out and win one game at a time. We are also playing for a teammate and good friend Brendon Sei, who passed away in October.”
Many people have made it all possible for Shell and he wanted to list them.
“I would like to thank my parents, family, coaches, and Mrs. Doherty for all the things they have done for me. My parents, I thank them for taking me to practices and out of town for games and raising me as the person I am today,” Shell said. “My family, for teaching me life lessons and also taking me to practices and coming to my games. Coaches for making me the best player I could be and Mrs. Doherty for helping me since freshman year with academics and organization and for our strong relationship.”