Sterling Shepard didn’t notice, but his nine receptions against Washington on Thursday put him ahead of Bob Tucker and in ninth place on the team’s all-time receiving list.
“How many more do I need to get to eight?” he asked when he got his attention.
Six to go to Chris Calloway. And if the season continues as it has for him, after two weeks he was tied for the NFL lead with 16 receptions, he could pass to Frank Gifford, Ike Hilliard, Jeremy Shockey and maybe even his old friend Odell Beckham Jr. ., to move on to the first four.
“That’s special, man,” he told Newsday. “There have been a lot of great players that have come and played here and having your name on the books is one of the reasons we all play the game. We all want to leave a stamp that will be here after you.” they left.”
However, as Shepard progresses through the list, such record book locations are fleeting and can be overshadowed at any time. Look at poor Hakeem Nicks, who started the season as the 10th most prolific pass receiver in franchise history. Shepard has since taken it off the page.
But Nicks has another kind of immortality with the Giants, one that no one can ever take away from him. He has a Super Bowl ring. Shepard? He is the current Giant with the longest time in office, playing in his sixth season, his most consistent player this season, and quickly rising through the ranks of the all-time greats with the franchise. But he hasn’t even won a postseason game in uniform.
“Man, my team goals exceed my individual goals to be honest,” he said. “They triumph over my individual goals.”
Then he took a deep breath.
“I’m so looking forward to getting back to the playoffs,” he said. “That is my goal. You ask me my goal? That is my goal.”
Shepard got there once, as a rookie, in 2016. Like most young players, he didn’t appreciate it while it was happening.
“I honestly thought then that it was an easy thing to do,” he said. “I got out of college from a winning program, then I came here and got an 11-5 record. I thought it was normal. But I haven’t been back since. That’s something I want the younger guys here to experience now. Feeling. different. Everything is different. “
The way he and the rest of the Giants receivers performed in that game, a wild-card loss to the Packers, remains one of the biggest regrets of his career.
“One thing I do remember being told is that Eli is a different man when it comes to the playoffs,” he said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, I remember seeing him when I was younger.’ But I’d never seen him firsthand. He was different. I mean, his preparation was always on point, but man, he was playing with the lights. I wish we had helped him more. “
In the game’s first two series, he and Beckham combined to drop four passes, one each in the end zone, and the Giants lost, 38-13.
Shepard assumed that he would soon have a chance at redemption. Instead, it is still waiting.
He said he met with his former teammate Brandon Marshall this week and the two talked about how difficult it is to make the playoffs. Marshall played 13 seasons in the NFL with six different franchises. Neither team played more than 16 scheduled regular season games.
That’s one of the reasons Shepard is having the kind of season he’s having, why he presented what he considered and those in the organization recognized as his strongest training ground and preseason of his career. Understand the urge to return. And it will drag the team there if necessary. He’s only 28, but he understands that he’s likely at least halfway through his NFL career and that if the Giants don’t win soon, another rebuild will ensue that would make an expensive veteran like him even more expendable.
There is urgency.
“He brings energy and juice to practice every day, energy and juice to the game, whether we are up or down,” said wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. “He stays at such a high level and wants everyone to play at the same level.”
So much so that on the last drive of the opening game against Denver, when most of the Giants fans had already fled MetLife Stadium and the Broncos had sealed the win, he was pushing everyone on the field to finish strong.
“I was telling them, ‘Come on, everyone, let’s keep performing at a high level,'” Tolbert said.
For what it’s worth, the Giants scored a touchdown in that series when Daniel Jones ran when time expired.
Anyone can guess if he’ll be able to hunt the sled dogs around him to make his way through the rest of this regular season. They are 0-2, just as they have been at the beginning of every year of Shepard’s career other than his rookie season. However, Shepard believes the Giants are “close” to being a playoff team. He loves his quarterback. Trust their defense. Believe your head coach’s message.
“I’m where my feet are and I’m concentrating on Atlanta right now,” he said, “but that’s something I want to see happen. I’ll keep doing my thing and keep trying to help the team win in any way that I can.”
If he can pull that off, he’ll put it on a separate list from the single season of all time or the other. He will put it on one of the Super Bowl banners hanging in the team’s field house. There have been four since the day Shepard was drafted, each named after each player and coach from the teams that won it all.
That would be the true stamp he would leave on the organization long after he left.
MOST RECEPTIONS IN THE HISTORY OF GIANTS
Amani Toomer – 1996-08 – 668
Tiki Barber – 1997-06 – 586
Joe Morrison – 1959-72 – 395
Odell Beckham Jr. – 2014-18 – 390
Jeremy Shockey – 2002-07 – 371
Ike Hilliard – 1997-04 – 368
Frank Gifford – 1952-64 – 367
Chris Calloway – 1992-98 – 334
Sterling Shepard – 2016-present – 329
Bob Tucker – 1970-77 – 327