Sterling Shepard may one day be considered for the Giants’ Ring of Honor.
It’s not a far-fetched idea. He’s played here going on seven seasons, has been a stalwart in the locker room and a leader through several “culture” shifts, and he is quickly climbing up the ladder of the team’s all-time top receivers. Only three others at his position have caught more passes for the franchise, and if he has a healthy season this year he should get the 34 more receptions needed to move into second place on that list.
But there still might be one thing missing from his resume even if he does stick around and continue to rack up numbers.
The key to getting in the Ring, it is clear from looking at those who have made it, is to already have a ring. A championship ring.
The Giants will unveil another six players’ names in the rafters at MetLife Stadium on Monday night – Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson, Rodney Hampton, Leonard Marshall, Jimmy Patton and Kyle Rote --all of whom were part of world championship teams. They will bring the number of on-field honorees to 38 (there are 12 others representing ownership, management, coaches and staff). Of those 38, all but nine won championships and only three never played in a league title game. Two were long-time special teams contributors Dave Jennings and Pete Gogolak and the other is linebacker Brad Van Pelt, the only every-down player in the Ring of Honor who never reached the sport’s ultimate game with the Giants.
Even the two inductees remembered more for their service to the country than their contributions to the Giants, Al Blozis and Jack Lummus, both killed in action during World War II, made it to title games before heading overseas. Lummus was a rookie on the 1941 team that lost the NFL Championship Game to the Bears two weeks after Pearl Harbor (he enlisted in the Marines the following month and was killed on Iwo Jima in 1945). Blozis was on the 1944 team that lost the championship to the Packers (he was sent overseas as an Army lieutenant almost immediately following that game and killed just six weeks later; his number 32 jersey is retired by the Giants).
“All the personal accolades are cool but it’s all about the team,” Shepard told Newsday this week. “This is a team sport so the ultimate sign of success is to win games and get championships. That definitely is a qualification to get up there in the Ring of Honor.”
Shepard said he is not focused on his place in franchise lore but admitted to occasionally looking up at the names that decorate the deck at MetLife and wondering if his might join them.
“That’s why you play this game, to get recognized in those types of manners,” he said.
So who, then, of this current era, is on track to be so immortalized?
Shepard has never come within a month of a Super Bowl. He’s so far been on one team with a winning record and appeared in one playoff game, both as a rookie in 2016. Saquon Barkley? He may be one of the team’s all-time great players if his career with the Giants extends beyond this season but his postseason resume is completely barren. Daniel Jones? Xavier McKinney? Andrew Thomas? Not unless they are hoisting trophies before they retire.
Looking around the Giants’ locker room these days and wondering who could have their name added to the Ring of Honor requires some optimism for the team in general. For any of them to get those halftime ceremonies in the future, the Giants have to start winning consistently. He hasn’t played a single snap yet, but maybe Kayvon Thibodeaux has the best chance given how many more years he might be here.
Then again, maybe Shepard will stick around long enough to get that done himself.
“You want to get recognized as a team and that’s the ultimate goal to win championships,” he said. “Every one of those guys [in the Ring of Honor] has had an opportunity to win a championship or has won one, so that’s the biggest accomplishment to me.
“As long as we stay on this track we’ve been on these last two weeks, all that stuff will come.”
NOTES & QUOTES: The Giants did not practice on Friday, holding only meetings and a walk-through. They will have their final practice of the week Saturday prior to Monday’s game. ... With no practice the Giants projected their injury report. The only change from Thursday was for WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring) who the Giants say would not have practiced Friday. Toney was limited on Thursday ... Cowboys LB Micah Parsons missed a second straight practice due to illness.