Posted: Thu March 28, 2013 3:05PM; Updated: Thu March 28, 2013 3:04PM

Pitt RB Rushel Shell taking leave of absence

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Pitt running back Rushel Shell is taking a leave of absence to deal with 'challenges' off the field.
Pitt running back Rushel Shell is taking a leave of absence to deal with 'challenges' off the field.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell is taking time off from football to deal with what coach Paul Chryst is calling "challenges" off the field.

Chryst released a statement Thursday stressing that Shell "very much remains a part of our family on a daily basis" but is not participating in spring drills at the moment.

Shell rushed for 641 yards and four touchdowns during his freshman season last fall and is projected to be the starting tailback for the Panthers when they open fall camp. Chryst said his primary concern is for Shell's well-being and that Shell has the program's full support.

Shell, from Hopewell, Pa., located about two hours east of Pittsburgh, set the state career high school rushing record during his career at Hopewell High, rushing for 9,078 yards.

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