The following is an excerpt from the chapter “Shock to the System” in “The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football.” You can pre-order on Amazon.
In storms Jeremy Shockey, right through the front doors of Yard House sports bar in Miami Beach and, honestly, he may as well be barreling down on a defensive back.
The man does everything at one hell-bent speed.
Shockey tilts his sunglasses atop his head, points to the other side of the bar— to his go-to stool— and then engulfs my hand with a bearpaw squeeze of a handshake. At forty-one years old, Shockey is a strapping dude. Gone are the blond locks that defined him as an NFL tight end, but the six-foot-five Shockey looks like he still has a dozen snaps in him. The bartender sees him and yells “Hey Shockey!” with a grin. Even though there are a hundred-plus beers on tap, he knows the tight end’s poison.
He pours Shockey a vodka-soda with a separate glass of limes.
With one “Cheers!” and one clink of our glasses, he’s off.
A conversation with Shockey is akin to an all-out sprint of a marathon if that marathon also happened to be full contact. For two and a half hours, Shockey’s brain operates at warp speed with his mouth, miraculously, keeping up. It’s stunning how much information Shockey can spit out at an auctioneer’s pace. He possesses the unique ability to make a complete stranger instantly feel like an old frat brother in playfully smacking your leg (“Back then in our minicamp, you hit!”) and gripping your shoulder (while quoting a “Caddyshack” line) and pulling your bicep to relive a play and jabbing a hard index finger directly into your chest to explain where he once cracked his sternum.
Arms flailing, Shockey is so animated that the vape contraption in his hands goes airborne and splits into pieces. He’s unfazed. He retrieves each piece off the floor and puts the vape back together without breaking cadence, moving right along to all his glorious fights over the years.
On the field. Off the field. Shockey has been in more brawls than he can count. These days, he’s too smart to sock some jabroni at a bar. Litigation and whatnot. However, he is a world traveler, and let’s just say Shockey has made his presence known in Brazil.
“I was always a great fighter. Don’t you like fighting?” he says, incredulous anyone wouldn’t.
He declares himself undefeated in bar fights with the missing knuckle to prove it.
Right there, clear as day, one knuckle is nonexistent. There’s not too much science to how this happens.
“You knock someone the f— out. I broke his orbital bone. I broke his nose. And his jaw. With one punch.”
Staring straight ahead, Shockey then reenacts the bloody scene. He was an incoming high school senior when a college kid chucked a beer bottle at him.
“It was like ‘The Matrix.’ I saw it … he threw it … and it was like … Wooo, wooo, woooo …”
Shockey ducks his head at the bar with Keanu Reeves dramatics to avoid an imaginary bottle.
This culprit didn’t hide. He approached Shockey and … showtime.
“I was like …”
Shockey balls up a fist and punches his hand with a loud smack! that’s so loud a few patrons at the other end of our bar look over. He connected. He leapt on top of him. He whaled away.
When people held his arms back, Shockey started blasting him with his own skull. He continues to relive it all, here, pretending to bang his head on the bar top.
“I tried to kill him and he’s out. He’s f—–g out. I’m still head-butting him and his s–t’s all f—-d up. I’m like, ‘Damn, I’ve got to go to practice in a f—–g week.’ It was perfect. I avoided the bottle and killed him.”
Ironically enough, Shockey’s mother worked for the local ophthalmologist. When the guy went to get his face examined, she was the first person to greet him. Luckily, Lucinda quickly connected the dots and covered up her name tag.
What a life it’s been.
Jeremy Shockey didn’t script a Canton-bound career with records galore, but no offensive player helped return the league to its bloody roots like him. He was an unapologetic savage of a tight end who treated NFL defenders like that poor fool’s face at every opportunity. For everyone in the sport — teammates, coaches, announcers, fans — it was a foreign sight. As NFL offenses justifiably chased the next Tony Gonzalez, right here was a throwback who didn’t merely seek contact. He needed it. Like oxygen. Shockey was the closest the sport had seen to Mike Ditka … with a twist.
He didn’t hand the ball off to the official and walk back to the huddle. He was in a defensive back’s face, spewing F-bombs, daring him to step inside his ring. Shockey pissed people off along the way but, in every sense of the word, Shockey was a fighter. The loudest example of why we are so addicted to football. And the way he did it was by taking everything personally.
From Ada, Oklahoma, to the University of Miami to New York City to New Orleans, Shockey cultivated as many slights as he possibly could.
In no time, he’s back to bulls——g about bar fights.
Shockey doesn’t have kids, but the best way anyone can try to picture what went through his mind on the field is by imagining someone bringing harm to your wife, your baby girl, your baby boy.
“You’ll go apes—. Trust me. Apes—,” he says. “This is your family. This is your s—. These are my teammates. We’ve been through a lot.”
It’s primitive, really.
He did not consciously seek this fight. Like Mike Ditka lambasting Ted Karras four decades prior, Shockey inherently needed to let his new teammates know exactly where he stood once he reported to training camp July 30, 2002.
One by one, per tradition, Giants rookies were putting on performances for the veterans at a team dinner. On demand, they were told to stand up on a chair and state their name, their school, their signing bonus, and sing their school fight song. There were also cringy renditions of Neil Diamond, Bobby Brown, New Edition. Tiki Barber’s choice back in 1997? The Beatles’ “Help!”
If the vets didn’t like what they heard, they’d force a rookie to sing “I’m a Little Teapot.” In terms of hazing, this kindergarten routine was benign. Most rookies played along. Shockey, however, was not most rookies. And Shockey, this day, was in no mood for bullshit. Simply getting to camp in Albany after a five-day holdout was a scene straight out of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” The limo driver taking Shockey to camp had one eye and swerved all over the road. He couldn’t find the dorms, so they pulled over to a truck station to grab a few hours of sleep.
By the time Shockey sat in that cafeteria, he hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours. He was starving.
Another Giants player happened to be on edge, too: linebacker Brandon Short. In the Giants’ most recent practice, Short brawled with tight end Dan Campbell. He can vividly remember his temperament that day — fuming. Such was training camp life back then. Livelihoods are at stake. Tempers flare. It’s quite literally, Short says, “one of the most testosterone-filled environments in the world.” When I ask if any part of him was intimidated by this wild man from The U, he’s insulted. Short grew up in the hardscrabble Harrison Village Housing Project in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, which had one of the highest murder rates in the country. He fought daily. “I’m from a tough f—–g place.”
A head-on collision was imminent and everyone was on hand. The entire coaching staff. Media members. Co-owners Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch. Even a group of Make-a-Wish kids in the cafeteria this day.
As Shockey chatted with his new quarterback, Kerry Collins, other rookies took turns singing their songs. Finally, defensive end Michael Strahan spoke up.
“KC, looks like you have a rook over there with you.”
“Rook,” Short chimed in, “you heard the man. Get up and sing.”
Shockey informed Short he would not be singing. He wanted to eat. “Did you hear the man?”
Short replied. “You have to get up and sing a song.”
“I’ll sing it later.”
Side conversations started to fade. The intensity in the room elevated and, for a moment, Short let it sink in that absolutely no rookie talks to him like this. He stood up, took one step toward Shockey, and a few teammates grabbed him.
This time, Short was more forceful. “Get up,” he said, “and sing a song.”
“What do you want me to do, B-Short?”
“Name, school, signing bonus, and sing a song. What’s your name?”
Shockey mumbled a half- hearted “… Miami …” then a barely audible “$3.3 million” and, when Short said that players in the back could not hear him, Shockey offered a louder, “This one is for you, B-Short.”
That was one too many B-Shorts. Short attacked him. The two heavyweights threw furious haymakers at each other in an all-out rumble, crashing to the floor even as head coach Jim Fassel hurled his body into the fray. Short describes the fight as something like “alligators” and “lions” rolling around, while Shockey claims Short was upset for one simple reason: “I was beating the s— out of him all minicamp.” Barber, howling in laughter, believes a pointed “F— you!” from Shockey is what ignited the brawl.
Either way, Jeremy Shockey made one fact clear.
“After that,” Barber says, “nobody f—-d with Shockey. At all.”
Vets instantly appreciated this volatility, especially the man who swapped punches with him. It took Short all of one day to get over the fight because he loved that this rookie never gave a damn. Fassel, too. He was borderline giddy talking about the fight to the press. Shockey? He didn’t think much of it. This was any ol’ Tuesday in his world. In truth, he wasn’t too thrilled about getting drafted by the New York Giants. For a team that made the Super Bowl two years prior, the Giants’ offense was, eh, boring. From afar, he always viewed the Giants as a “very bland” franchise. Mom told him not to worry, however, because he alone could change that.
She was right.
Six days after the “B-Short” melee, against the Houston Texans in the Hall of Fame Game, he caught a short pass, ricocheted off Texans cornerback Jacoby Shepherd, sprinted past safety Matt Stevens — with Stevens tearing at his facemask— and then saved his best for last. Shockey punctuated a forty-eight-yard monster truck mash of a play by lowering a shoulder into safety Kevin Williams. After seeing this, owner Wellington Mara had flashbacks of Mark Bavaro and told tight ends coach Mike Pope he better add a few more tight ends like that. GM Ernie Accorsi compared Shockey to John Mackey, and teammates genuinely couldn’t believe what they witnessed.
Nothing was too complicated to Shockey.
“Whatever position you play, you shouldn’t take s— from anybody,” Shockey says. “You’re playing the demolition derby. The strong survive. What do they say in ‘Fight Club’? Four people go into a room and only one winner comes out. It’s like that. … I take that s— very personally. I definitely took out my anger on the opponents.”
Within his own locker room, he took on a “prison mentality” because locker rooms are a weird place. It still baffles Shockey how the person right next to him would get cut, replaced, and suddenly there’s a complete stranger getting butt-a– naked. There aren’t many jobs like this in the world. But through it all, like inside the walls of a prison, one clear alpha that everyone respects emerges. He became that force of nature — Day 1, Dinner 1 — because he was so fueled by slights.
Slights always sparked that anger.
Anger that could be released, in all its grandeur, at the tight end position. His list of victims is long. When David Gibson is reached via email to relive his encounter with Shockey, the orthopedic sales rep was actually in surgery. “Son of a bitch,” he told himself.
“Shockey!? I have to talk about this guy?” The events of December 22, 2002, have a way of haunting him still. At work, coworkers bring it up. At home, his kids recently played the clip on YouTube for friends. As the legend goes, in the lead-up to the Colts’ game against the Giants, Gibson was asked by the local media about the rookie sensation and said he wasn’t treating this game any differently. Then came the money quote: “He’s no Tony Gonzalez, he’s just another player to me.”
Those words made their way into an Indianapolis Star headline, and Barber again needed to prod Shockey. He and Collins handed the tight end a copy of the sports section, and Shockey’s reaction? Not quite what you’d expect. There was no smoke emanating from his ears. He was calm. Creepy calm. Filing it away in the back of his mind. “Which,” Barber adds, “is almost worst.”
A Colts teammate also handed a copy of the newspaper that Sunday morning to Gibson. He believed his comment was sensationalized but, make no mistake, he certainly wanted to smash Shockey.
“I was tired of his arrogance,” Gibson says.
He always viewed himself as a big hitter, too. He enjoyed inflicting pain. This was also a massively important season for Gibson. After backing up John Lynch in Tampa Bay, he requested a trade three weeks in to get some game tape with a second contract looming. Early in this showdown, he even nailed Shockey on a seam route to force an incomplete pass and said a few words he cannot repeat. Basically, he concedes, it was down the lines of: “MF’er, I’m going to be here all day!” Not long after, his world was rocked. At the start of the second quarter, with the Giants leading 3-0, Shockey caught a screen pass from Collins, turned upfield, and spotted No. 26 in his vision. He then lowered the crown of his helmet and, as the tight end poetically puts it, “f—–g hammered him.” Gibson’s arms flailed helplessly as Shockey thundered through him for an extra thirteen yards. The blow sparked a 44-27 blowout win.
No, Gibson never did get that coveted second contract with the Colts. He played one more season in Tampa and was done.
“One mistake can haunt you for the rest of your life,” he says. “When your career ends in the NFL, it’s tough. It’s like a death. So, it definitely took me a while to get over that and try to find a new passion in life. It happens. You’ve got a fifty-fifty shot. Kill or be killed.”
The next week, with a playoff berth at stake, Shockey’s leaping touchdown grab over Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was the game-winner. The two tumbled to the ground and a nodding, smiling Shockey told the future Hall of Famer, “I got you this time!” This score was revenge for a teammate. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard’s season ended with a Dawkins cheap shot earlier in the season. Ahead of the ensuing wild card matchup at Candlestick Park, 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson said on a conference call with Giants beat writers that, OK, Shockey has a lot of confidence but that it also hurts him. “He’ll get frustrated,” Peterson said, “and then blow a couple of plays.” In the second quarter, Shockey caught a pass at the 9-yard line and was drilled by safety Zack Bronson who, of course, was instead trampled himself. Shockey spun free.
Shockey eyed Peterson at the goal line. And rather than score an easy touchdown, he entered a new address into his internal GPS to totally change course and lowered his head into Peterson.
Shockey was stopped short of the goal line, but have no fear. Two snaps later, he caught a touchdown.
That day the Giants also suffered what was then the second-worst postseason collapse of all-time. At one point, Shockey lobbed a cup of ice into the stands without looking and the ice struck two kids. Shockey apologized to the family in the locker room afterward. Yet even after signing a football for the kids — and sensing that the family had accepted his apology — the father of the kids ripped him in the press.
That was why Shockey later told Sports Illustrated he’d “do it all over again” and that he feels sorry those kids had to be raised by a father like that.
From the cafeteria brawl in July to the airborne ice in January, this hell-raising tight end made it abundantly clear in Year 1 that nobody would tell him what to do or what to say. New York City loved him for it.
He was Reality TV before Reality TV— you never knew what he’d do or say next. The hair. The snarl. The tattoos. Nobody looked like him, either. When the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001, Shockey told himself that if he ever got a tattoo, it’d be America themed.
New York drafted him, and it only made sense to get a bald eagle draped in the American flag on his right bicep. The art took twenty-one hours over three days to complete. Shockey always cherished this country’s freedom, too, another reason he never thought twice about spouting off.
During training camp in 2006, Shockey called head coach Tom Coughlin an a–hole to the press.
When one teammate asked Shockey, point-blank, why he said that, Shockey didn’t miss a beat.
“Freedom of speech. First Amendment. I pay my taxes.”
And he walked away.
Says Short: “We were laughing like, ‘This dude’s crazy.’ ”
Crazy enough to reveal his sexual fantasy to a magazine. Nothing was off-limits. He blurred private and public behavior like nobody before him, and everyone got drunk on his authenticity.
To many, he was beloved. Shockey’s jersey sales ranked number one in the NFL. A teen from Western New York named Rob Gronkowski even wrote him a letter. To critics, he was a carnival act. But even in this pre-Twitter age, both groups could not look away. Shockey agrees he probably did blaze a trail of individualism in the NFL and, for a moment, wishes social media existed then.
He then pauses and scrunches his face as if he just gnawed on those limes. “No, I don’t wish that. That’s all fake.”
He partied with fellow bachelor Derek Jeter all the time and threw drinks back with New York Yankees pitcher David Wells. New York tabloids linked him to a string of actresses and models.
To the outsider, it might’ve seemed like Shockey was unhinged. All this, however, masked the reality that Jeremy Shockey was uniquely obsessed with the sport.
He wasn’t married. He didn’t even have a girlfriend. His day-to-day life was extremely regimented. During a game week, he woke up at 5 a.m., stayed at the facility until 5 p.m., and was usually in bed by 8:30. He’d refuse to give himself more than those three hours each day.
The only night he’d go out during the season was Monday — and only if he wasn’t training hard on that off Tuesday. “Seriously,” he says. “Everyone called me a hermit. I had a military mentality.” Shockey loved studying the science of recovery to take care of a body he was treating like a piñata. He had regular acupuncture sessions and helped popularize hyperbaric chambers in the NFL.
Even when he did drink, guilt tended to seep into his conscience. It was common for a drunk Shockey to bang out seventy-five to one hundred push-ups at 3 a.m. He needed to punish himself. No wonder he took it another level when one bid for revenge failed. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Shockey badly wanted to make Jerry Jones pay for drafting safety Roy Williams when the owner told him he’d be their pick at eighth overall. He played poorly in a Giants win. So after everyone else headed home, Shockey hot-routed to the weight room to squat four hundred pounds.
This became a common postgame sight and why Barber calls him a “maniac” and “a foxhole guy.” And why Pope describes the football field as Shockey’s personal “glory land,” adding that the tight end flatly had trouble understanding why others weren’t wound as tightly as him. He lived hard. He worked harder. The logic was simple to Shockey: “I’m here to win f—–g games and go on my way. I’m not here to do all the extra s—.”
Shockey could not understand how teammates balanced professional football with a family life.
Kids? Marriage? None of this made sense to him.
“Because I gave all my s— to football. I’m thinking in my mind, because I’m so selfish, I’m like, I hear them on the phone talking about their wife, cheating on their wife, and I hear about their s— and their kids and I’m thinking if they didn’t have that s—, how good would they be? If you didn’t have that bulls—, imagine how good you’d be.”
Once, Shockey was blunt with running back Reggie Bush when he later played for the New Orleans Saints. He told Bush that he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he wasn’t dating Kim Kardashian. Just because Shockey was spotted with a model in NYC doesn’t mean the two were spending quality time together. The toast of the city says he never actually dated anyone those six seasons. That would’ve served as a 5 mph construction zone along his frenetic warpath to Sundays.
Sex with a model in NYC was one thing, he assures. Dating is quite another.
“I didn’t go to her house one time,” he says of one relationship. “It was very simple: Play football. Don’t have any of the headaches. It makes life very simple. I love kids. But you see it with a lot with guys out of college. They have a baby mama and have to pay, pay, pay. If they didn’t have this problem, how successful would they be? … I was good at getting girls. Ain’t nobody sleeping over and I ain’t going to your house. It ain’t like that. Sorry.
“I just feel like I had to be responsible for the whole locker room. So if I’m worried about this or a girl I got pregnant, how the f— am I going to remember my plays? It’s impossible. Like I said, it was something that was always instilled in me. When I was fourteen, my mom gave me a box of condoms and said if I wanted to have sex to use a condom. At fourteen! So, it’s very common sense.”
There was no trapping Shockey into a windfall. Over the years, a couple of women tried tricking him into child support by claiming they were pregnant when he clearly wasn’t the father.
Those three free hours per day were spent taking care of his body because Shockey was putting himself through Ditka Era punishment. The second Shockey learns what Gonzalez thinks about his play style, he flashes the exact thin smile Barber describes. The comment is innocent and truthful: Gonzalez believes Shockey could’ve lasted a hell of a lot longer in the NFL if he wasn’t trying to demolish opponents all the time. While harmless, the comment still gets lodged into Shockey’s brain … and he refuses to let it go. He stores it and sporadically brings it up throughout our conversation.
When it comes to blocking, he pokes fun at Gonzalez and says those KC and Atlanta offenses ran away from him. He claims it was never his goal to play fifteen years, adding that he would’ve played longer if he didn’t have any Super Bowl rings. He brings up the fact that Atlanta went to the Super Bowl after Gonzalez retired and adds that Gonzalez “never sniffed a championship ring.”
“So, I don’t know why you play. I love the game but if I’m not winning any games, if I’m not going to the f—–g championship, I don’t give a s—.”
Most of all, he stands by his violence. He says that this is the way he was raised while Gonzalez, “being a basketball guy,” was not.
Whereas Gonzalez understandably couldn’t believe one coach had him doing blocking drills after practice, Shockey made a point to lock horns with Strahan during pregame hitting drills.
“Hey, big boy,” he’d taunt with a snarl.
“I had to work at that s— every day. The people who already have it, who are already that fast and that big and that strong, they usually don’t make it. Strahan, that’s how I learned my blocking. It took a lot of him beating me, me being upset, and me whacking him. Cheap-shotting him! The next thing you know, he’s upset. It’s a big brawl.”
As a receiver, Gonzalez left Shockey in the dust, but Barber also eclipsed 1,200 rushing yards each of the five years he played with the tight end. In 2004 and 2005, he went over 2,000 total scrimmage yards. Barber knows Shockey’s presence was a major factor why, too. When Shockey flexed out, he lured a linebacker with him. Then, when Shockey was asked to block?
Linebacker. Defensive end. Defensive tackle. It did not matter. Shockey would blindly beeline toward his assignment.
“Every. Single. Play. That’s why I loved the dude, man,” Barber says. “He was such a great athlete but he was physical! A lot of these tight ends now are basically wide receivers. Jeremy Shockey would earhole a 280-pound D-Lineman if you asked him to, and would not be afraid to scrap it with him. He was old school.”
Adds Short: “He made a point to kick your ass just because you were lined up on the other side.”
In breaking others, he broke himself. Gonzalez wasn’t wrong. Gibson wasn’t wrong, either.
Shockey made four Pro Bowls but never parlayed a 74-catch, 894-yard rookie season into the Canton-bound career many predicted because he showed zero care for his own physical well-being. He never played a full season. The broken sternum comes to mind first and, yes, he sticks a finger right in your xiphoid process to explain where he got drilled against the Seattle Seahawks. It felt like his heart fell right out of his chest.
Countless games, his feet were plastered with blisters by the end of the first quarter and his cleats filled with blood. When Shockey broke his ribs, it hurt every time he sneezed. He suffered concussions. A sports hernia. Turf toe. There are mornings Shockey wakes up and wonders, “What is this?”
He can’t help himself.
“Tony never got hurt, did he? That f—–g guy must pray more than me.”
Before games, Shockey loaded up on Toradol and, for a brief period, a pill called Vioxx. Not many people know about this anti-inflammatory drug because it was pulled off the market in 2004. The medical journal Lancet estimated that 88,000 Americans had heart attacks from taking Vioxx, with 38,000 of them dying. Here, Shockey reenacts his NFL mornings, first pretending to be sprawled out in bed. Stiffening up, he says he felt like “Mr. Freeze.” Once he could get out of bed, the pain was unimaginable. Shockey gingerly lifts himself off the bar stool and tiptoes around Yard House. Those first three, four steps, Shockey felt like his body would completely shatter.
Shockey certainly justified the existence of public relations officials associated with the New York Giants. Yet, Wellington Mara always understood that this, right here, was the real Jeremy Shockey. The warrior who could hardly get out of bed and, without blinking, lived like there was no tomorrow the very next game. At practice, Mara would watch on from his sideline chair and, afterward, “cattle prod” Shockey for dropping a pass. Shockey loved it. In the middle of an embarrassing 45-7 loss to the Saints in 2003 — when Shockey was injured, goofing off on the sidelines — Mara came right down to reprimand him in front of teammates. Barber couldn’t believe the sight, the raw disappointment in Mara’s face. This looked like a father scolding his son.
The bond was so special that before Mara died in 2005, the owner’s family requested for Shockey to see him in person. Two years later, on December 16, 2007, Shockey’s career in New York effectively ended when wide receiver Amani Toomer fell into him at the end of a running play. Shockey broke his left fibula and injured his ankle. Thinking back to that night, his temper boils once more. He doesn’t believe Toomer had any malicious intent, but …
“I’m sitting there in the motherf—–g training room, and he comes up to me and says, ‘That was your leg I fell on?’ I’m thinking in my mind, ‘Calm yourself, Jeremy. Don’t f—–g grab him and f— him up.’ He took a block, it was a run play. And it is what it is. He was lazy. He didn’t do his job correctly and he broke my leg. He’s a Michigan guy. I’d never come up to a guy and say, ‘Hey! Is that your leg I broke?’ It’s like the old Rodney Dangerfield. ‘Your boat scratched my anchor!’ I was pissed off.”
Those 2007 Giants went on to shock the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, at which point the relationship between Shockey and the Giants was broken beyond repair. John Mara wasn’t the same as his father, Shockey says, and gone was the GM (Accorsi) who drafted him. Shockey was reportedly upset that the team would not let him watch the Super Bowl from the sideline in crutches and, as the game neared, he vacillated on whether or not to attend. When he decided to go, he paid his own way to the game. Things only got weirder when Shockey was the lone no-show at the Super Bowl parade and both the White House and ring ceremonies.
He’s proud of that ring. The reason it was so hard for him to attend the Super Bowl was that Shockey had a staph infection in his lower leg.
After the game, from a wheelchair, he went straight to Dallas for another surgery.
“I damn near lost my f—–g leg. Did I tell the media that? No. It’s none of their business. The media didn’t know that. The Giants didn’t even know that. It’s my body. It’s not theirs.”
By “leg,” he specifies that it was the foot area, calling this a “ski boot break.” He never went public with how close he was to losing his foot, either, because he wanted zero sympathy. Into that 2008 off-season, Shockey was depressed. He loathed the fact that most everyone was labeling him jaded and jealous. (“Are you kidding me? I put in six hard years for that f—–g ring.”) At twenty-two years old, he didn’t mind the paparazzi following him. But no longer did he bask in that NYC spotlight.
There was no way he could play one more down for the Giants.
The pressure was too much. The messy exit clearly still bothers him.
“S—, what else could I have done? I guess I could’ve made six all-star games in six years but I only made four. I tried my best. New York, I love the city, I love the people, I love the sports fans. But it was different. When you put yourself on that pedestal and try to do good and try to treat people right — but they build you up just to kick you off? — it’s like, ‘Motherf—-r. You built me up just to write a terrible story about me.’”
If the Giants weren’t going to trade him, Shockey was leaning toward retiring for a season to let his body and mind heal. He’s still convinced it wouldn’t have gotten this bad if Wellington Mara were still alive. The Giants did eventually deal Shockey to the New Orleans Saints in July.
He had one more sweet moment of redemption in him.
Excerpted from “The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football.” ©2022 Tyler Dunne and reprinted by permission from Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group. To read this entire chapter on Jeremy Shockey, pre-order “The Blood and Guts” on Amazon.