When Jabaal Sheard came off the board early in the second round (37th overall, fifth pick in the second round), it seemed like Pitt may have been headed for a big night. But Sheard was the only Panthers player selected and so Dion Lewis, Jason Pinkston and Greg Romeus will all have to wait until Saturday afternoon to figure out where they are going to begin their NFL careers.
For Sheard, who I had written was rising in the eyes of NFL teams, it is a great day obviously as he will be headed to a place where he will have a shot to play, perhaps even start.
And given that the Browns used their first round pick on Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor it is clear that Pat Shurmer - the first-year Browns coach who, if you remember, was one of the names the Parker Executive Search Firm recommended to Steve Pederson as someone he should talk to during the Pitt job search - and the Browns are trying extremely hard to rebuild the defensive line.
The team is also undergoing a change - from a 3-4 to a 4-3 - and that is another reason the team needs to pick up more defensive linemen.
I think it is interesting that he was picked by a 4-3 team because it means he will be playing defensive end and not outside linebacker and end is his more natural position.
Here are some of the highlights of Sheard's media session tonight. I found it interesting that, for the first time publicly and on the record, he talked about the Southside brawl of a year ago that nearly ended his season and nearly landed him in jail:
On how he would describe himself as a player -
Sheard “I think I’m an aggressive player. I know you guys are familiar with (James) Harrison. I was next door to the Steelers so I watched them play a lot. I think I’m aggressive. I know how to get to the quarterback. I’m a hard worker and I’m going to get the job done.”
On if he had any idea the Browns would draft him -
Sheard “No, I had no idea. Honestly, I kind of didn’t talk to them since I think the combine. I think they came to my pro day. I had no idea it was going to happen. I heard rumors about it today that it was possible. A lot of guys had me getting drafted at 36 or 37. It just so happened that it happened. It’s is right up the street from Pittsburgh where I just went to college at so I think it’s great. It’s awesome.”
On his suspension prior to his senior season and then being voted captain at Pittsburgh -
Sheard “It was just an incident where I made a mistake and I learned a lot from that lesson. It was going into my senior year and I had a lot on the line and I learned a lot from that. I think it got me matured enough, prepared me for the NFL because there’s going to be a lot more incidents where I’ll be in a case like that and I’ve got to react differently. I think I learned a lot from that. Going into my senior year, I knew I had to make it up to my teammates. I was a senior and my team needed some leadership so I just stepped up and played as hard as I could and tried to prevent my other teammates from getting in trouble. Just doing whatever it took to get done for us to win and that was probably it. I stayed after hours and invited the younger guys to stay with me and catch film or work off the field. I just was always trying to do something to improve our team and I think that’s why my teammates voted me team captain.”
On his bravery medal for helping an elderly woman escape from a burning home when he was in high school -
Sheard “I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. It was a house that was like smoking and the fire alarm was going off. Nobody reacted, everybody just watched it. I was probably about 11 at the time so me and a couple of my friends were riding bikes around the neighborhood and we happened to see that the house was smoking and the fire alarm going off. We ran over and tried to break in and then we ran to call the police and came back and started breaking in. Just as we were breaking in, the fire truck arrived, so they came and got us out of the way and got in there. It just happened there was an elderly women that had slipped and was unconscious and it just so happened that we did it just in time because it could have been worse than what it was.”
On his mentality on the field -
Sheard “I’m always thinking of getting to the quarterback or whoever has got the ball in their hands. I’m aggressive. I want to be the hardest hit. I want to make that hit where the crowd goes ‘Oooh’ and then everybody just screams. I want to be the talk of the game so I like to watch him play. He’s very aggressive. He gets off the ball fast. I think guys fear him. Guys really don’t want to go up against him and that’s the guy I want to be. That’s the guy I like to play like when I go up against every week. When I talk to guys that I played in the past, I want them to be like, ‘Man, you we’re something else. I never want to play against you again.’ That’s the kind of feedback I want to get from my game.”
On whether he was expecting to be drafted this high -
Sheard “I’m from a praying family so I was always praying for the best, I know it’s probably not possible, praying for the first pick overall, but it always my dream to just be a pick in the draft. I was praying for anything that was possible. I was always preparing for the worst. I was prepared for it either it happening in the sixth round or I can be a free agent, I just take it as I’ve got to improve my game. All the ends that go before me, that just means that they are probably that much better than me or they see something else in me and that’s what I need to improve my game and become better than those other guys that are in the NFL.”
On being a speed rusher or power rusher -
Sheard “I think speed sets it up, so the guys that are intimidate them by your speed off the edge it kind of gets them kicking and ask for help or have them nervous even before the snap and maybe get a couple false starts cause they’re nervous about getting off the ball. I think that sets it up, I then I can switch it up, I think I’m pretty powerful. I’ve got a couple of bull rushes in my film and I like to take on the run. I could switch it up and come with the speed and power and I mean knock a guy that’s what 300-some pounds on his back, I think I’ve got both elements of the game. I just need to work to improve them.”
On what it would be like to sack Ben Roethlisberger -
Sheard “You know what I am. I’ve seen him, he’s a pretty big dude. I’m looking forward to playing them. I’ve been around that team, that organization for so long and I got to meet (Mike) Tomlin. I visit the Steelers and he told me whether I’m with him or not playing with them he’s going to come over and say hello and remember me and we’re going to have a talk. I’m going to make sure he comes over and says hi after the game.”
On if playing for Dave Wannstedt prepared him for NFL-
Sheard “Definitely I think he got me prepared for the NFL, everything a man takes on in life, I think he got me ready for life period. As far as going against a pro-style offense, pro-style defense and I think he got me prepared for the hours that it takes to put in and how focused you have to be.”
On if he was worried the suspension (for the Southside incident) would ruin his career -
Sheard“Oh definitely there was a point when I was suspended from the team indefinitely and I think that’s what made hungry a lot more during the season. I was nervous, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I had let down my team as well as my family and my school. I was definitely nervous. That I get that second chance, I think that really helped me a lot this year. I stepped up my game and proved to everybody that I’m not what they had me as in the paper.”
On if he had to convince teams that he wasn’t a character concern -
Sheard “No, I never had any problem prior to that incident. I had coach Wannstedt who was a guy who has been around the league and he wouldn’t lie. That’s the first trouble I’ve ever been in and a lot of people say once you get to meet me you can tell that’s not the guy I am. That’s not the guy I am, on the field maybe I kind of get a little hot and it’s a game it’s football, it’s competition, but off the field I’m not like that I’m a cool laid back dude and I’m not looking for trouble and that’s not what I look for.”
On what happened during the incident that led to his suspension -
Sheard “I was just on a date with my girl and we had just left the bar and I kind of ran into a younger teammate getting into a scuffle. I just tried to get in between them and break it up and in doing so, it broke apart. I guess the guy felt some type of weight or he kind of just hit me or took a shot at me, hit me in the back of the head as I was walking away. I just went and defended myself and fought back. The thing about the window, we kind of were both fighting and tussling and we went through the window. I mean he was a pretty big guy so I couldn’t pick him up myself, but the way the papers wrote it, I threw him in through him the window.”
And of course, here is what Pat Shurmur had to say about Sheard:
Shurmur "He wasn’t defensive player of the year for no reason. He’s a very, very productive guy, he has pass rush ability and he’s one of those guys that can play the run. He finds a way to make plays and he’s got some instincts that we feel like are important for a guy to be a productive defensive player especially on the edge.”
Shurmur “When you turn on the film and watch a guy you don’t want to go too long before you say, ‘Wow that was good.’ I think he has that explosiveness where he will have a way to be productive. I think that’s what stuck out to me and it kind of baits you into watching more. I’m an offensive guy, but when you start watching that you say ‘Wow okay, okay.’ Then you go on and look at it further. My first interaction with him on tape, that’s what I saw.”
Here is Brown's general manager Tom Heckert had to say about Sheard:
Heckert “He’s a good football player we think he can play the run, he obviously can rush the passer. I think he was the defensive player of the year this year in the Big East. He’s a really good player. He was a guy we targeted a long, long time ago and we were happy he was there. We were a little nervous about it but we’re glad he was there.”