Sterling Shepard may wish his NFL career wasn’t ending. It most likely did, though, on Sunday. It was quite the sendoff for the veteran wide receiver, a 2016 second-round pick who spent his entire career with the New York Giants.
Shepard caught three passes to give him 372 for his career, moving him past Jeremy Shockey and into fifth place on the franchise’s all-time receptions list.
Shepard had said recently that running out of the MetLife Stadium tunnel was his favorite thing as an NFL player. The Giants introduced Shepard to the MetLife Stadium crowd last as a 12th offensive starter, allowing him the spotlight in what is likely his final NFL game.
The Giants marked the occasion by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, sending Shepard off with a victory.
Shepard was appreciative in a happy post-game locker room.
“Really just trying to take it all in,” he said of his approach to the day. “Like I told you guys earlier in the week, I knew that this was probably going to be my last time being in this jersey. I just wanted to take it all in with my brothers and enjoy every moment of it, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Shepard’s three receptions all came in the second half. As you might expect, he knew what the three catches meant.
“Yeah, it meant a lot. I grew up watching that guy [Shockey] and it was a special deal being able to get it,” Shepard said. “It wasn’t easy but my career hasn’t been easy. So, I didn’t expect it to be any other way, but it was a great feeling.”
After suffering a torn Achilles tendon and a torn ACL that limited him to 10 total games in 2021 and 2022 Shepard’s career could have been over. The Giants gave him an opportunity this summer, though, and he made the roster. He ended up with only 10 receptions in limited opportunities, but Shepard appreciated the chance to extend his career.
“I’m just very appreciative of the opportunities that they gave me, because they didn’t really have to do that,” Shepard said. “They believed in me, and I tried to put my best foot forward every day trying to fight back from those injuries and thank God I was able to do that. Thank God that we have the coaching staff that we have and the ownership that we have. I’m very appreciative of those guys.”
Sterling Shepard thanks the Giants organization and Brian Daboll for allowing him to come back from injuries:— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) January 8, 2024
"They believed in me, and I tried to put my best foot forward every day and fight back from those injuries." pic.twitter.com/bnnFs3EZtH
What his teammates were saying
Here is what some of Shepard’s teammates said about him Sunday evening:
“That was fun. Happy to see him end up top five [in all time Giants WR receptions]. Obviously, statistically in his career is probably not what he thought it was going to be, but he battled a lot of adversity throughout his career. But he epitomizes what it means to be a Giant. That’s why you see him get the love that he gets from the fans, from us. Every single day the energy he brings in, no matter if we lose, win, I’ve got nothing but tremendous respect for that guy and I think I can speak for the whole locker room that we all feel the same way. So just happy for him and it definitely helps the bonus to get a win to end the season.”
— Saquon Barkley
“It means everything [to get Shepard the three receptions]. Shep last year dealt with some injuries, but he never let that get in the way who of he was as a person. Each and every day he came in the building, creating energy for the guys, in the midst of him dealing with trying to bounce back from an injury and even this year, maybe not having the biggest role that he may have wanted, but still supporting the guys, supporting the younger guys in the wide receiver room and still being the energy, the heartbeat for our team. We knew how many catches he needed going into this game and tried to get him a catch him there right before half, but we were able to get him a couple in the second half to be able to move him into that top five. Shep is a good friend of mine, proud of him, proud of the career that he’s had here and the legacy he’s going to leave and glad to be a part of it as well.”
— Tyrod Taylor
“Shep’s been a foundational leader for us all through OTAs. He’s got so much perspective. He’s been in this game a long time. He knows what winning looks like and he just brings energy and passion every day. You know, he’s always competing. He’s always trash talking he’s just always filled with joy and energy and love of life and he’s really a great person for everybody, including me to look up to.”
— Bobby Okereke
“It [getting him the catches] felt great. I mean, Shep is a great player, done a lot for the giants, dealt with some, you know, tough injuries back to back years. He’s never lost his energy. He brings his juice. Even if he’s not playing as much, he’s still a great teammate, a great leader for us. So it was good to see him get that today.”
— Andrew Thomas
“I can’t say enough good things about him. Ever since I came in as a rookie that’s been my mentor, who I go to to ask about anything. He’s been through just about all of it. Did our ACL rehabs together and things like that. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a great teammate, great person.”
— Wan’Dale Robinson