Sterling Shepard has been one of the Giants’ most productive offensive players in his two seasons with the team. The team’s second-round draft choice in 2016, Shepard was first rookie wide receiver to start every game for the Giants since Bobby Johnson in 1984. He finished second on the team with 65 catches for 683 yards and eight touchdowns, and placed second among NFL rookies in all three major statistical categories. Shepard followed up his rookie season with 59 receptions for 731 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2017.

Q: Can you tell me about your family life when you were growing up?

Shepard: “I grew up in Oklahoma City. I have two sisters and my mother (Cheri). My father passed when I was six years old. We started out in Norman, Oklahoma, because my dad was coaching at (the University of) Oklahoma. We were in Norman, and then we moved into the city after he passed, and that’s where I went to high school. Ended up getting an offer to Oklahoma, which was what I wanted and committed to there.”

Q: Are your sisters older or younger?

Shepard: “One’s older (Ashley), one’s younger (Shelby).

Q: Were sports always a big part of your life when you were a kid?

Shepard: “Huge. I mean, every single birthday cake I had was a football. That’s all I ever wanted, so it was huge part of my life. My dad and both of my uncles, they all played at Oklahoma. So it was huge for me to go play football and they’re from Texas; everybody knows how huge football is in Texas.”

Q: Was football always your favorite sport too?

Shepard: “That’s all I really played growing up. I played basketball, too, but everybody knew I was going to be a football player.”

Q: What position did you play when you were a kid?

Shepard: “I played so many positions. In Pop Warner, I played defensive end. They finally moved me out to wide receiver, then I started playing quarterback, running back - I pretty much did it all as a little kid.”

Q: Were you a good student?

Shepard: “Yeah, good student. Took care of everything in the classroom. Probably could have been better going into high school, but it was a different transition for me. I went from a public school, where I didn’t really do much, to a private school, where I had to really take care of my business. It took me a little bit to get adjusted, but I finally got adjusted.”

Q: How much do you know about your father’s NFL career?

Shepard: “I hear about his college career more than anything. But during the process of being drafted, I had a lot of coaches come up to me and say that they knew my dad, and that he was a heck of a player. So I hear a little bit of how he was in the NFL, and I get to go based off of some of the film that I’ve seen.”

Q: Have you watched a lot of film of him playing?

Shepard: “I have, especially college film. I used to watch that all the time growing up, and then I would see clips all the time at Oklahoma, because they would compare both of us. They would put clips together and stuff. So yeah, I got to see a lot of film.”

Q: Do you have a similar body type or running style?

Shepard: “Running style, yeah. It’s crazy if you put our running styles together, sometimes we get going too fast it looks like we’re going to fall over. But I kind of got that from him.”

Q: Is it true you used to go watch your dad play racquetball?

Shepard: “Yes, like every week.”

Happy birthday pops! RIP3

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Q: Is that your most prominent memory of him?

Shepard: “I would definitely say so. That was something we did on a weekly basis. And I was so young, but that is the main thing that I remember for sure. Going to watch him play racquetball every week, and just running around the facility and waiting on him to get done.”

Q: Was it like a health club type of place and you would run around while he played racquetball?

Shepard: “It was like a YMCA, so I would go run around the YMCA while he was playing racquetball until it was time to go.”

Q: Do you remember him passing and your mom telling you?

Shepard: “I remember everything. The loudest scream I’ve ever heard from my mother. We were actually celebrating my cousin’s birthday at my grandma’s house, and we got the phone call from (then Oklahoma defensive line coach Jackie Shipp).”

Q: Your dad was in Wyoming at the time?

Shepard: “My dad got a position coaching job in Wyoming, so he was out there and we were still in Norman because Coach (Bob) Stoops said he was going to bring my dad back (to the Oklahoma staff). So we just chilled in Norman and coach Shipp called my grandma’s house and my grandma picked up the phone. But yeah, I remember everything that happened that day.”

Q: So the coach at Oklahoma found out before your mom?

Shepard: “Yeah, found out before my mom. I guess some of the coaches over there called the coaches at Oklahoma in a way to get in touch with my mom, so that’s the way it happened.”

Q: Does your dad’s memory fuel you today?

Shepard: “Without a doubt. I kind of look at my cousin. He had his dad around, which is my uncle, and he kind of got burned out from football, because it was so tough on him. It’s the complete opposite for me. My dad passing just kind of fueled me. If he was here, he would probably still be really hard on me. I don’t know if I would love football the way I love it, but he’s a big reason for what I do. I do what I do for him and my family.”

Shepard accepts the Disney Spirit Award at the College Football Awards in 2014

Q: What memories do you have of high school football (at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City)?

Shepard: “A lot of good ones. My freshman year, I didn’t play that much, but we ended up winning the state championship. We had a pretty good football team that year. I was still coming into my body, I was real skinny. I think my nickname was mouse or something like that.”

Q: So you weren’t a defensive end anymore?

Shepard: “No, I wasn’t a defensive end anymore. I was playing receiver. They would put me in for some trick plays, but that was about it. Sophomore year went pretty well. I actually ended up starting at quarterback. We didn’t win state, but we got close. Junior year, we actually got a quarterback in, so I got to go to wide receiver and that’s kind of how that happened. And then we won state two years back-to-back after that. Actually no, we made it to the semifinals my senior year and lost. My junior year, I scored like four touchdowns in the second half to put us ahead, so we ended up winning.”

Q: And you also played basketball and ran track in high school as well?

Shepard: “I jumped in track. I didn’t run at all. Long jump. I played basketball until my junior year, and then I gave it up. I was just focused on football.”

Q: When did Coach Stoops become a part of your life?

Shepard: “When I was six years old. Right when my dad passed. He’s a coach’s son, too, so he knew what it was like to be a coach’s son and be around the facility and interacting with the players and stuff like that. He didn’t want me to miss out on that. He just told my mom that any game that I wanted to come to, any practice I wanted to come to, I had free reign, so I just kind of got to run around that place.”

Q: And you took advantage of that as often as you could?

Shepard. “I love being around football. That was like my favorite thing to do, so I used to be at every game, every week on the sideline, go to practice whenever I wanted. It was pretty good.”

Q: Was he like a father figure to you?

Shepard: “I wouldn’t say a father figure, because I didn’t hang out with him outside of the facility or anything. But it just shows you what kind of character he has, and what kind of man he is. He didn’t have to do that by any means, and he allowed me to do that.”

Q: Did you ever consider going to college anywhere other than OU?

Shepard: “No, and it was crazy because that was my last offer. It happened on my birthday. They gave me an offer on my birthday (Feb. 10). Oklahoma State was my first one, then the rest of the Big 12 came, and I still hadn’t gotten OU. I was kind of freaking out.”

Shepard leaps for the endzone in college in a game against Tennessee

Q: Couldn’t you just go ask Coach Stoops?

Shepard: “No, that isn’t the way that works. I wanted it to be because of my skillset, not because of my dad. They ended up apologizing to me, actually, saying sorry we waited so long. I guess they were looking at the old film, I don’t know, but we ended up getting that and I was happy.”

Q: Was being in college the best time of your life?

Shepard: “The best time in my life. Without a doubt. On the field, off the field, both of them. It was definitely a time I will remember.”

Q: What is something that stands out from your time with the Sooners?

Shepard: “I would definitely say the Tennessee game (Sept 13, 2015, in Shepard’s senior season). Because the first half it was not going our way (the Sooners trailed on the road, 17-0), and this was crucial with how our season was going to go. So it wasn’t going our way in the first half and then we ended up putting stuff together and then ended up coming back and scoring the game winning touchdown, which was one of my most memorable plays there (a game-winning 18-yard touchdown pass in double overtime). So that would probably be the main memory for me.”

Q: Did your mom and sisters get to go to all of the games?

Shepard: “Oh yeah. They were at every game. They’re still at every game. Well, not my sisters, but my mom, she’s at every game. I got to have her in the stands.”

Shepard stands with his sister Shelby, left, and his mother Cheri, right, on senior night

Q: When did you start to think you could play in the NFL?

Shepard: “When I was little. I swear, when I was little I was just like, ‘Somebody’s got to do it, somebody’s got to make it. I know I can.’ I guess when I really thought I could make it was my freshman year of college. That was when I knew that was what I was shooting for. I’ve always shot for it, but I knew it was possible right there. So I gave it my all and my freshman year I had a really good year. Came back, sophomore year did better and then just kept going up from there.”

Q: Did you have any idea where you would go in the draft?

Shepard: “I knew I was going to go top two rounds. I didn’t know if I was going to sneak into the bottom of the first, which now I’m glad I didn’t. But I was kind of upset on the first day when I didn’t get called. But I knew the next day I was going to get called. I had a party that day.”

Shepard catches a pass during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. The Giants took Shepard in Round 2

Q: What was your reaction when you found out it was the Giants?

Shepard: “At first, I didn’t even think about it. I was just happy to get off the board. My mom was like, ‘New York! That’s so far. She was thinking somewhere close, but then I sat down and thought about it and I was like I’m in the perfect situation because I got Odell (Beckham, Jr.), I have Victor (Cruz) and I have a great quarterback like Eli (Manning), so I couldn’t have fallen to a better spot.”

Q: Had you ever been to this area before?

Shepard: “No, never. My mom and my sisters took a trip out here, I ended up going somewhere with my ex-girlfriend and I went on some trip with her family. So I’d never come up to the east coast.”

Q: Your first game was in Dallas, you score a touchdown, your dad played for the Cowboys. What was that night like for you?

Shepard: “I was so ready to get after them. The night just worked out perfectly. My first touchdown in my first NFL game ever. I wasn’t really expecting that because the whole preseason I was trying to get in the end zone and score, and it wasn’t working out my way. Then what do you know, the second series I ended up scoring in Dallas, so it was definitely a night to remember.”

Q: How helpful were Victor and Odell to you last year?

Shepard: “Huge. They didn’t only help me on the field, but they helped me off the field, too. There’s a lot of opportunities in New York, and those are two guys that have taken advantage of it. They taught me the ropes on what to do, and they helped me out on the field, of course.”

Shepard celebrates a touchdown with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during his rookie season

Q: Do you look back and say you had a really good rookie season, or do you believe you could have done better?

Shepard: “Definitely could have done better. Coming out of college I think I had six drops total my whole four years. I dropped the ball way more than six times last year, which is something I don’t usually do. So I wasn’t really pleased. I thought I could do more. I thought I had a decent season, but it could have been more.”

Q: With all the injuries at wide receiver, you quickly went from being one of the younger players at that position to the most experienced. What was that like?

Shepard: “It was really different. It’s not something you expect going into the season, but it’s what happened and we’re all pros here, so you just kind of take the reins and go with it. You can’t really show that you’re scared or anything, because you have other guys looking up to you like you’re going to lead us now. So you just have to conduct yourself as a leader.”

Q: How do you like living in this area?

Shepard: “I like it a lot. I was in Secaucus last season, and I didn’t really like Secaucus. There wasn’t really much going on at all. But now I’m in Weehawken with my girlfriend, so it’s a ton better, and I love the area.”

Q: Does your mom spend a lot of time up here with you?

Shepard: “She’s at the house every week, staying in the guest room. She and my girlfriend are the best of friends, so they’re always with each other.”

Q: Well, she’s now your fiancé, correct?

Shepard: “My fiancé, dang man, you’re right. I got to fix that.”

Q: Not many young men from Oklahoma get to marry supermodels.

Shepard: “You’re right about that, too.”

Q: That might be your greatest career accomplishment.

Shepard: “It might be, man.”

Q: How did you meet Chanel?

A: We met at Victor Cruz’s birthday party last year. I went up to her at the bar and asked her if she wanted a drink, and we just kind of hit it off from there. Roger (Lewis) and T.K. (Tavarres King) they were all there, and D.D. (Donte Deayon). They were like, ‘You should go talk to her,’ because I kept talking about her. And I was like, ‘Man you know what, I’m going to go ahead and talk to her.’ And we just clicked.”

Shepard takes a photo with his fiance Chanel Iman at an ESPN event in 2017

Q: Did she know who you were?

Shepard: “She wasn’t a football fan. She didn’t watch football at all. Now she’s learned a ton. But she had no idea about football. She didn’t know who I was. Her friends knew who I was, but she didn’t.”

Q: I heard you had quite the elaborate plan for when you proposed.

Shepard: “It was (Dec. 1), and it was actually her birthday, and she was coming back from the Bahamas; she had to do a shoot there. So she came back from the Bahamas and I told her I was going to take her out to a nice dinner. And then I really had a surprise birthday party for her in the city; I had a company set up candles and all of this stuff in our venue room. So I told her that Davis (Webb) was upstairs, because Davis lives in our building, and I said, ‘Let’s go upstairs.’ Davis is trying to give me my iPad that he got from the locker room. So she came upstairs with me and I had it all set up, and she saw the candles and she was like, ‘What does Davis have going on in here?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know babe, come outside.’ And she said, ‘Did you set this up for my birthday?’ I had a photographer and everything, and I said yeah. And then I dropped down on one knee, proposed to her. Her family was right behind her inside. I told her to turn around, and she broke down crying. But it was all good.”

The catch of my dreams...can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you!

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Q: Do you have any idea on when you are going to get married?

Shepard: “I don’t know. I think we’re going to do it pretty soon, just because we don’t have much time. I don’t think we want to wait a whole year. I’m leaving it up to her, to be honest. She’s got it all planned out.”

Q: Have you taken her to Oklahoma yet?

Shepard: “She’s been to Oklahoma a couple times. There really isn’t that much going on.”

Q: Do you expect to play football for a long time?

Shepard: “Oh yeah. This is what I love to do. This is what I think I was born to do, so I want to do it for as long as I can. I love this game more than anything, so I’m going to give it all I can until I can’t anymore.”