Sports

Sterling Shepard Talks Changing The Giants’ Identity, Daniel Jones, And The Sooners

Sterling Shepard has been a model of consistency throughout his football career. A standout wide receiver at Oklahoma turned into a reliable option for whomever is throwing the ball for the New York Giants in a given week, Shepard has long been the kind of guy who knows how to get open and provide an outlet to his quarterback.

As he told Uproxx Sports, a lot of this stems from his desire to constantly learn, break down film, and find guys whose games have things he can take and apply to his own — “I feel like if I can steal a nugget, I can steal a nugget from anybody,” Shepard said. “It doesn’t matter the age or whatever. I just love watching routes, I love watching good route techniques.”

This sort of mentality has made him part of the Giants’ ongoing quest to build something that lets them get back to the postseason consistently. He’s a firm believer in everyone feeling a sense of accountability for what happens, and while the team sits at 0-2 on this early point of the season, he’s optimistic that there are brighter days ahead for the organization.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Shepard to discuss the Giants, Daniel Jones’ development, the Oklahoma Sooners, his partnership with Tide, and more.

What have your thoughts been on the team through two games so far this year?

I’ve been super happy with how guys have fought. It sucks that we haven’t been able to come away with some wins, especially the one last week, on Thursday. If you look at that game, we left a lot of points out there. And, you know, we just have some minor stuff that we need to correct. And I feel like we’re gonna get it on the right page.

I read some stuff that you said this offseason about how you think you have the personnel, but everything comes down to putting in the work. What did you see in the offseason that made you go, “We’re close, we just have to do that last little bit,” and then like you said, those couple of points that get left on the field suddenly become three, six, nine points that you end up picking up over the course of a game?

It comes down to the small details. That’s something that coach Judge stresses us on a daily basis. When you look at the game, it does come down to that one catch, or that one missed assignment that could happen throughout a series. Everybody has one my bad and one mess up, that really controls the outcome of the game. So, we all have to be in tune with what we need to do on every snap.

One other thing that you said was that, despite how tough last season was, you were really proud of how you guys fought, you stuck together, you kept giving yourself something to build on heading into this year. How did that mindset help this offseason? And how has that helped through two weeks so far?

You kinda can’t really look at last season, every team is different. Every team in the division is different. So, you know, we took some of the momentum, I would say, coming from the last few games of the season. We had to work to find our new identity. And I think that’s something that we’re still searching for. But but we’re super close, like I said, and I believe we’ll find out pretty soon.

How would you define that new identity you guys have been working towards?

Just a hard nosed, gritty team. That’s the way we have to play. That’s the way the Giants have been in their history. If you look at the history of the Giants, that’s how everybody has been, how teams have played, so we got a lot of hard-nosed guys, we don’t have really too many big name guys, just a lot of hard workers. So, that’s the way we have to have to play and how we have to be, and it really represents the fanbase.

The one guy I think everyone wants to talk about is Daniel. He’s a young quarterback, so he’s gonna have his good and his bad moments, but I think we saw why the team likes him last week — didn’t turn the ball, nearly 70 percent passing, the good stuff that really excites people about Daniel Jones. How close do you think he is to breaking through and consistently being that guy?

I think it doesn’t really have to do with just Daniel himself. It has to do with us, as well. I mean, we have to do our job in getting open. The offensive line has to do a good job protecting him. I think there’s a lot of things that come along with his success, we all have to do our part. There’s 10 other guys in the field that have to do their part, and as long as we’re able to do that, then Daniel’s gonna do what he did last week. We almost put up 30 points, something that some people didn’t think that we could do.

I’m getting the sense that you really believe there is a level of accountability that you’re taking a lot of pride in installing to everyone else on the team. Is that a fair thing to say?

A hundred percent. I mean, it’s not ever gonna be just on one guy.

You’re a guy who I’ve always liked watching dating back to your Oklahoma days because you’re someone who has really good technique. To the untrained eye, what is it about being able to get off the line of scrimmage, run good routes, find pockets of space in a defense that leads to a guy being able to get open so easily?

A lot that goes into that. That takes a lot of time and work, it didn’t just happen overnight. I’ve watched a lot of film, different route runners that I like and some of the techniques that they use, kind of just twist it and make it my own. Everybody has their own strong points in their game. And I feel like if you hone in on those on those strong points in your game, then yeah, you master those and then you’re able to get open. That’s what I did, I just watched a lot of film and made everything my own.

I won’t ask for all the guys that you’ve watched, but is there one guy — whether they’re in the NFL now or a retired guy, whomever it might be — who you saw a lot of stuff in their game and went, “That’s something that I can perfect and put my own twist on”?

I’m into watching older players. Like Steve Smith, somebody that’s the same stature as me, just how strong he played is something that really stood out to me, and that’s something that I wanted to really add into my game, somebody that I’ve always looked up to. I always make things my own, but yeah, that’s one guy that I really watched a lot of film.

To go in the other direction, who are some of the younger receivers in the league that really pop off the tape?

You look at the Calvin Ridleys, the Jerry Jeudys, those guys are explosive. When they stick their toe in the ground, they’re able to create separation. And just from the route technique standpoint, they’re super advanced. I love watching those guys, too. I feel like if I can steal a nugget, I can steal a nugget from anybody. It doesn’t matter the age or whatever. I just love watching routes, I love watching good route techniques.

I’d be remiss to not ask you a couple of questions about Oklahoma. I feel like in years past, the big college football conversation has always been, there’s the ‘Bama and Clemson tier, and then maybe Oklahoma is a little below that. But coming into this year, people were putting Oklahoma right up there with anybody else. What are your thoughts on the team this season?

Yeah, I mean, the first game was a little shaky. I honestly cut the game off, because I thought we were going to pull ahead pretty fast. And then, next thing I know, I look up and it is was 40-35. And I was like, aw man, so I had to cut it back on. But those are just shaking out some of the cobwebs in the first game of the season. Last week, we handled business. We just got to keep getting better week to week. It’s a young squad, so got to keep those guys on and kind of let them know how the season is gonna go. There’s gonna be ups and downs, just got to keep on pushing through.

I’m getting you right after the Nebraska game. I’m pretty sure you never got a chance to play against Nebraska, correct?

Nah, I never played against them.

But I know you’re someone who has OU in your blood, you know how serious that rivalry is. Is that something you wish you got to do when you were a player, and is that a game you want to see happening every year?

Yeah, for sure. I remember growing up and watching my dad’s highlight tapes and stuff, and a lot was against Nebraska in the ’80s. That was huge rivalry and one of the staples in college football. So yeah, I would like to see it every year. I would’ve liked to be a part of it. But we had our fair share of rivalries and we handled business.

Coach Stoops is on TV now. What are your thoughts on him as a TV guy?

Coach Stoops is gonna be great at whatever he does. He was a terrific coach, and he’s going to be terrific on TV as well. So I’m excited to listen to him and watch him.

What do you got going on with Tide?

Yeah, so I’m teaming up with Tide. They’re switching to washing in cold and the NFL’s switching to washing in cold. And I think about it all the time like, man, the NFL has to watch tons watch tons of clothes, because I look around our locker room and see how many times they have to wash our stuff. So yeah, there’s switching to washing in cold, and it really saves energy and also saves you money, which is something that I really relate to because I have children, so I’m always washing clothes and stuff like that and you can save some energy and help the environment, and also save a little change from time to time. There’s nothing ever wrong with that as well.

You mentioned a big part of that is washing in cold water is good for the environment. How important is it to you, whether it’s with something like this or just really anything, to take that platform you have as an athlete and use it to inspire people to make the sorts of small but good changes in their lives that impact everyone?

I think that’s huge. We have this platform and we are able to reach a lot of people. It can either be done for good or for bad, so this is something that is on the positive end, and something that I look forward to doing. And then, another cool thing about it is, there’s a washing machine that’s coming out, it’s a New York Giants washing machine. And people can go to Tide.com and going there and can pledge for washing in cold, and then they get a chance to win a washing machine with the New York Giants logo on it, and it also has my voice on it, which is pretty cool.

×