Jabaal Sheard: Taking care of small things fueled Colts' revival

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Jabaal Sheard

Defensive end, Indianapolis Colts

Born: May 10, 1989

Experience: Eighth NFL season

Interview by Dan Parr | December 13, 2018

One of the league's best and most consistent defensive linemen for the Browns, Patriots and now Colts over his eight NFL seasons, Jabaal Sheard is a force for good off the field. He was selected last week as his team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, marking the second time he's received the honor. He discusses what winning the award would mean to him, why he's so committed to making a difference in his community and the keys to the Colts' turnaround in 2018.

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I was a bit shocked [to be nominated for the Man of the Year Award]. There's a lot of guys that go out every week up here and go out and give back. It could've been any one of the guys on the team. So that was a big shock when I heard I was up for nominee. I was just thankful.

We touch a little bit of everything through my foundation. I've been mostly working with the Boys and Girls Club, just mentoring the kids and getting different speakers to come in and teach them about different careers and opportunities that are out there. Through the Colts, we've able to do Play 60, build a playground, giving out flowers to cancer patients. Just touching a little bit of everywhere.

An old teammate of mine, Gary Barnidge, does a thing where he goes to different countries every year and teaches football. This past year he invited me out [to Portugal]. It was a great experience to go out there to teach those guys football and see how much they respect American football. They know a lot about European football -- what we call soccer -- but just to see they still respect our game and care to learn it. It was just fun to be out there.

[This is] just how I was raised. Caring mom. Always taking care of the family and looking out for all my cousins and aunts and everyone else. I just think I came from a loving family and that's just kind of been inside of me. She always had a big heart. She always accepted friends, family. She always took care of kids in the neighborhood. She just always had a big heart and tried to help everyone she could.

[My pursuits in giving back] adjusted over time. I've just kind of been involved in a lot of different things. ... Kids have always been huge to me, definitely, having one of my own. That kind of just led to the Boys and Girls Club this year. Before that, I didn't really have an idea of what specifically I wanted to reach out to. Just kind of give back to the community that gave to me.

[The most rewarding thing is] just the reaction of kids when you go out to the community. This past week, I went out to the Boys and Girls Club, just all the kids knowing you by name, dapping you up when you walk in. It just kind of feels like a family environment and not just a football player coming in. I feel like I'm really giving back and inspiring the kids. It's an experience that they hopefully remember.

It's pretty cool. When I first walked in, everybody was a bit shy, not really sure who I am, but, through the time, [it] evolved. We've been there for like the last eight weeks or something like that and it was just building a relationship. So that's pretty cool.

It'd be huge [to win Man of the Year] because you get more opportunities to give back. It would mean a lot to give back to more communities and reach out to more people. It'd be cool for the payoff. But at the end of the day, I think every man up there does it just out of the kindness of their heart and not really looking for recognition.

I'd put [the Man of the Year award] up there with one of the higher honors of just doing the right thing. We always highlight when players do bad things instead of players doing the right thing. There's a lot of guys that go in the community every week and a lot of people don't get to see it. I just think it brings a lot more attention to the things that players are doing in their spare time and how they're giving back. I just think it's a great recognition for all NFL players around the league.

[My advice to young players is] always the same thing: Come into work, take it seriously, handle your business at work and when you get an opportunity, give back, touch others. There's a lot of people looking up to us.

Taking care of the small things. Taking care of your body. Always being to work on time. Being attentive. Getting proper rest and knowing your playbook. If you're here, nine times out of 10 you're doing something right that got you here, so continue to do that. Just be a playmaker out there.

[This season with the Colts has] had its ups and downs. Obviously, everyone was frustrated at the beginning, but now that we've been getting a little bit more successful, it was all about just taking care of the small things. I think everyone's buying in. Obviously, it's a great to win and every week you win just makes the next week harder.

[Frank Reich's] been a great leader. Huge heart. He's just dialed in to his players. He's been great so far. Everyone believes in him and everyone follows.

[My former teammate Tom Brady and current teammate Andrew Luck are] different in their own ways. Both great quarterbacks. Just happy to have Andrew as my quarterback right now and playing well.

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