It's Year 3 for Giants WR Sterling Shepard, and though many look at that as the "breakout season," the 24-year-old has much to play for than just his stat line.
For one, Shepard is expected to play a vital role in reviving the Giants after their abysmal 3-13 season last year. He had to be the team's leading receiver when Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall went down with season-ending injuries in Week 5, and the injury bug plagued him a bit as he missed five games as well.
Moving on is what the Giants aim to do with a new regime in place, but Shepard doesn't want to erase it entirely from his mind. It's the perfect motivation.
"I mean, you have to know what you did last season so you don't want to have that feeling again," Shepard told SNY while promoting Pepsi's Tailgate Tour", which is a massive traveling party going to the biggest college and NFL matchups of the season. "So, you kinda use that part of it. But there's another part of you that let's it go and know that this is a new season, you have pieces to the puzzle back in here, and also have some new additions that give this team a new identity. So, you kinda got to move on but also relive the past a little bit too so you don't have that feeling again."
But, if that isn't enough motivation for Shepard, this is the first season he will come home to his with his wife, model/actress Chanel Iman, and new baby girl, Cali Clay, after each game.
Shepard took a deep dive into that motivation, Saquon Barkley's 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' competition, and much more ahead of his Week 1 matchup against the Jaguars on Sunday...
Q: First things first, game week right now. How anxious are you to start the season?
Pretty anxious, man. I mean, we've been going against each other for awhile now, so it's kinda good to throw on the pads and go out there in the regular season and play against somebody else and it actually means something. So, looking forward to it, all the guys are amped up and ready to go.
Q: You have a new GM and head coach among the big changes from last season. What has that culture change been like for you, and the rest of the team?
It's been great for me personally. Just the offense -- it's a totally different offense, kinda utilizes all the weapons that it has. That's great for every guy that's going to be touching the ball. And then in the locker room, yeah, you can see it. Guys are responding well to some of the new rules that we have and some of the different things Mr. Gettleman and Coach Shurmur are putting in place.
Q: Speaking of new faces, Saquon Barkley looks so comfortable with you guys, even before camp started. Talk about that relationship and how you and Odell especially have made him feel like family.
Yeah man, it's just crazy how quick he just clicked with us. The first time I saw him, you know, I smiled at him, he smiled back and we just all clicked. We all got the same kind of personality, all got the same type of goals, and yeah, we just all clicked. We were able to go out there in California and work out with each other, just build that team camaraderie. So, he's been great so far. He doesn't really act like a rookie. He's a young guy but he acts like a vet. That's all you can ask for from a rookie.
Q: We all saw the video of Odell and Saquon playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' at that last preseason game, and you're in the middle watching. The rumor is Saquon's very serious about his 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' and the loser has to do pushups. Is this true? And how many times have you lost?
Yeah, it's true. I lost shortly after they had played. He beat me on that one, but I had beaten him I think about a week or two before. So, he was trying to pay me back and got me. I had to do a light 20 pushups. But he loves playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors.'
Q: Do you guys keep a running count to see who's beaten the most?
See that's the problem: We don't write it down, which we should write it down. So you got a lot of liars. He (Saquon) likes to lie and tell people he's beaten me more times than he really has.
Q: Obviously you guys like to keep it light and fun. Do you ever mess around with Eli Manning?
Yeah, we just like to have fun. It's just kinda natural to us. And I wouldn't say it's us messing with Eli. Eli is usually messing with us. He's one of those jokesters, he likes to pull a lot of pranks, so you gotta keep your eyes on him.
Q: You're a father now. What has that transition been like for you? What challenges have you ran into being a new father?
Yeah, there's definitely some challenges especially in this early stage. I mean, it's kinda hard to get sleep and right now sleep is crucial for me. So, I'm always in the guest room trying to get a little sleep. That's probably the toughest part.
It's awesome, though, having a baby. No matter what type of mood you're in, whenever you walk in the door, when you look at her face you can't help but to be happy. So, it helps with that. But, yeah, it's been great so far. We have a healthy baby. Can't thank God enough for that.
Q: Have any of your teammates met Cali yet?
Yeah, well Roger Lewis before everything went down (he was part of the Giants' roster cuts). He came over and he was over all the time. And then Odell came over, he was playing with the baby. Jerell Adams before everything (also cut by Giants) came over as well.
Q: Have you and Saquon shared any fatherhood tips?
Yeah, we always talk about it, some of the different things and different phases that the baby is going through. Like you said, he's got me by a couple months. So, I was trying to see the other day, I asked him 'When does she start smiling at you and playing with you?' Because right now, in the early stage, they're trying to figure everything out so they're not really interactive. But I think he said when they're on month three or four, and his baby is starting to play around with him a lot.
So I'm looking forward to that stage. But, yeah, we're always talking about that and trying to figure everything out.
Q: Describe what that journey has been like for you, getting married and having a baby while training in the offseason. Was it a challenge, or a quick transition?
I don't think it was a difficult transition. You have to allow yourself some break time and I think the wedding was planned out perfectly, so it didn't interfere with my offseason training. It was a great time, great time in life just spent with your family. The wedding was crazy, best time I've ever had and definitely the best day of my life. So everything's been good man.
Q: How supportive has Chanel been? Obviously she's busy too with her own career. But there was the video of her working out with you...
She always wants to tag along. She loves getting fresh air, especially when she was pregnant. She was kinda couped up in the house, wasn't feeling well at the beginning stages. But as soon as she was able to get moving she always wanted to come out there and do a little something. She reads a lot of stuff and she read that it was good to workout to make the pregnancy a little easier. So, she was out there running hills with me.
But that's my rock right there. She's very supportive of me and she holds the ground for me.
Q: Is that some extra motivation this year with a wife and baby at home?
Oh, of course. It was in the back of my mind when I found out she was pregnant. I knew I had a baby on the way, that I have somebody else to provide for. So, not only do I have to provide for my wife, I got to provide for my child as well. My family is No. 1 to me and football is the one way to provide for them right now, so I'm givin' it all I got.
Q: What else do you like to do to get your mind off the game?
Well, right now, it's a little difficult. I have the newborn, so a lot of my off time goes towards that. Probably right after I get off the phone with you, the baby will be waking up and I'll try to give Chanel some sleep and rock the baby or feed the baby. So, that's what my off time looks like right now.
Q: Tell me about your partnership with Pepsi and their Tailgate Tour this season...
Yeah, so they're having a Tailgate Tour. They're going around different cities, I think eight cities and just getting involved with the fans. They're going to have food, drinks. They're going to be at MetLife on Oct. 11. So, yeah, they're going to be involved with the fans and it's going to be a pretty cool deal.
Q: Other than Pepsi, you're sponsored by Nike as well. What did you think about their Colin Kaepernick ad campaign?
I thought it was really cool. They're standing on his side, and yeah, it was just a cool project.
Q: Come Sunday, do you have a set pre-game routine?
No, I just kinda do whatever comes to me. I don't really have a set routine or anything.
Q: Top 3 artists on your pre-game playlist?
Kevin Gates, for sure. Lil' Boosie. And then we'll go with Kodak Black.
Q: If you score, do you have your touchdown dance ready? Or are you going to wing it?
No. Definitely have it ready. We practice a lot. We got to fine tune it this week.
Q: It's Year 3 and people see it as the breakout year. Do you agree with that?
I feel like every year I come in with that mindset and that attitude. I just gotta put in the work and keep doing me, man. And hopefully that's what it leads to. That's what I'm hoping for, but No. 1 thing is getting the team back on the right track. We didn't have the season that we wanted to last year, so I want to get back to winning. Winning is a lot better, so whatever it takes to do that I'm down to do.