Sterling Shepard has played in 53 regular-season games in four seasons, but that makes the 27-year-old wide receiver a wizened veteran on the 2020 Giants.
Nineteen of his teammates have at least as much NFL experience as Shepard, but none has worn a Giants uniform for as long as the wideout who is participating in his fifth training camp. His rapid ascendency to become the Giants’ longest-tenured player will result in Shepard shedding a nickname he’s had since his arrival as a second-round draft choice in 2016.
I might have to shake the ‘Young Shep’ off, Shepard said on a Zoom call today. I was thinking about that. just set a good example for the young guys and kind of teach them about some of the different rivalries that we have and how important those games are to the New York Giants as an organization.
As that comment indicates, Shepard’s status will push him to become a more visible leader in this season of significant change for the Giants. Gone are the likes of Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie, who played in 457 regular-season and postseason games in 29 combined seasons. Second-year pro Daniel Jones will open a season as the starting quarterback for the first time. The Giants signed 14 veteran free agents who played elsewhere last season and drafted 10 players. Joe Judge is the new head coach and he has brought in 16 assistants who were not here a year ago.
Without Manning’s long shadow, Jones will certainly be more vocal and confident this year. But the Giants need more players to fill a leadership void, as Barkley is the only one of the seven team captains from a year ago currently on the team. By virtue of his production and experience, Shepard is a candidate to earn a C on his jersey.
If that’s what ends up happening and that’s the way my team sees me, then I’ll be happy to wear that badge and take that role, he said. I’m happy with whatever role. I can lead in different ways, like I have for the last four years that I’ve been here. Whichever role they have me in, I’m going to find a way to lead.
That will include continuing to talk about the team’s rich history, which includes 696 regular-season victories, 32 postseason appearances, eight NFL championships and 21 Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Judge also wants his players to be aware of the franchise’s long-term success.
When we were going through the OTA period on the Zoom calls, the coaches would have some trivia questions for us, so we did this Kahoot! challenge to kind of get guys going and understanding the history of the organization, Shepard said. Those were some of the different ways that we’ve already began to teach some of these newcomers and guys that really don’t know much about the history of the Giants, a way to get them caught up.
I think it’s very important to know the history. You have to know what the guys before you have done and how they played football, and to continue to play that way because that’s what this organization was built on and that’s what it’s used to. I think it’s important and the coaches do as well. That’s the reason they had us doing those different Kahoot! challenges and trivia questions.