MIAMI – After New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey(notes) answered the last question from a gaggle of reporters mining for details of the Saints' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, he had one request.
"I hope you don't write anything bad about me," he said. "I know there are a lot of people out there who have negative thoughts about me."
For the second time in three years, Shockey was part of an upset win in the Super Bowl. Only this time he was actually on the field, catching the go-ahead touchdown with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter.
It wasn't the most difficult play – a 2-yard score against defensive back Jacob Lacey(notes). The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Lacey, a rookie, was no match for the 6-5, 251-pound Shockey. Even still, as the Saints' tight end scored, he kicked his legs high in the air in celebration.
In that one moment, he was no longer the target of scorn the way he was in 2008 when he sat in a skybox watching his New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Yeah, he was happy for his teammates back then. But it sure didn't feel good to watch and then to hear people say that he had been part of the problem.
Or as his mother Lucinda said as she walked off the field Sunday: "I do believe in karma, and it's all turned around for him."
"You play this game to contribute, to be a part of it, to make those plays to win games," Shockey said. "It hurt to sit [two years ago], to hear people say, 'The reason they're winning is because you're not on the field.' "
He then looked away and said, "Two years man, that's a long time to wait for this, to wait to see this happen."
The perception of Shockey has always been tinged by his high-strung state. When he speaks about something meaningful, his hands and head shake, almost as if he's about to lose the battle with his emotions.
In New York, Shockey often lost his cool. His comments were interpreted as harsh criticisms of coach Tom Coughlin, a situation that Coughlin and the team eventually couldn't handle. After the 2007 season, the Giants traded Shockey to New Orleans for a second- and fifth-round pick.
But really, Shockey is more of a refreshingly open guy, which is great for the media but not so much for a locker room when things are going bad. In New York, he didn't shy from controversy. He also didn't shy away from taking hits.
"I've had broken bones and injuries – a lot of pain. I've got metal plates in me," Shockey said. "That's what happens when you play this game. You have to play it with passion. The minute I lose that passion, I'm done.
"You play this game from the time you're in seventh grade to get to this moment. You practice and you hurt and you love it, but you put yourself out there."
A broken leg kept Shockey out of the Super Bowl for the Giants, an injury he suffered while struggling to get more yardage after a reception. During his six years with the Giants (and actually during his entire eight-year career), Shockey never played a full season because of one injury after another.
"We knew he was a guy who was emotional and competitive – who wasn't afraid to show his feelings on the field," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. "But what was important was we heard from a lot of people that he was a good teammate; that guys liked him and liked to play with him."
Said Saints defensive end Will Smith(notes): "Jeremy is one of my guys. I guess you could say I have all the crazy guys around me. … It's not like he always talked about what happened in New York, but when you asked him about it, you could tell he didn't feel like he was part of it. It was like they put him off to the side during the Super Bowl and kept him away from the whole thing."
Shockey still has a sore spot in his soul about the New York experience because he feels so misunderstood. After Sunday's game when one reporter asked him about what it was like to finally get redemption, Shockey was quick to correct him.
"Don't put words in my mouth. I wasn't depressed that we won. Not at all," Shockey said. "I was happy for the guys. I was just frustrated I couldn't play."
Finally, when all the questions were asked and all the answers given, Shockey got a smidgen of time to himself. As he slumped onto the wooden bench in front of his locker, he wore a look of relief, one like someone who had just finished a circuit of lifting weights going full bore. For Shockey, this is where two years of emotional torture came to an end, where he could actually feel like he was truly part of something special.
And to think, all it took was a 2-yard catch.