When the 2010 NFL draft took place, cornerback Sam Shields never heard his named called. There was a reason for that. Shields had played four years at the University of Miami (FL), and was a wide receiver his first three years as a Hurricane.
It wasn't until his senior year that he became a cornerback. Even then, Shields did not have a great statistical year, as he didn't have any interceptions.
But what he did have was great speed. He showed that at his pro day, when he ran a 4.30 in the 40-yard dash.
The other thing that Shields was very good at in college was his ability to be an effective gunner on the kick-return coverage unit.
Shields also looked to have the athletic ability to convert into a good cornerback. That is why the Green Bay Packers signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent shortly after the 2010 NFL draft.
Shields was still considered a long shot to make the team. But he did indeed make the team. And he also had a nice rookie year with two interceptions in six starts.
Then in the 2010 NFC Championship Game versus the Chicago Bears, Shields had two interceptions, including the game-clincher.
Two weeks later Shields was walking off the field as a Super Bowl champion when the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Not a bad start for an undrafted rookie, huh?
But the 2011 season would be different for Shields. He did have four interceptions in seven starts, but he also was burned a number of times in coverage and missed way too many tackles.
When the Packers opened training camp in 2012, the word was that Shields was one of the players on the bubble about even making the team, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote about last summer in training camp.
Shields bounced back in 2012 with three interceptions in eight starts and tackled much better. No. 37 also picked off two more passes in the postseason, including one for a touchdown.
That led to the 2013 season, the contract year for Shields. He ended up with four interceptions in 14 starts, including two very key ones in the comeback victories over the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears late in the season.
Shields also had a career-high 61 tackles.
Overall in his four-year career, Shields has 13 interceptions in the regular season and four more in the postseason.
All of that led to the four-year, $39 million dollar deal that the Packers gave Shields on Saturday.
NFL Media's Albert Breer tweeted that Shields would receive a $12.5 million signing bonus and would get $15 million overall in the first year, $21 million over two years and $30 million over three years.
In a story by Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin which also talked about the signing of Shields, there were some quotes by cornerbacks coach Joe Witt of the Packers.
Witt was very encouraged about what he had seen from Shields over his short career at the end of this past season.
I think he’s one of our top 1-2 guys on defense, in my opinion. So he’s important to us. When he first came in, he was a receiver playing corner. Now he is a defensive back and a very good one. So there’s just a huge, huge difference. He’s shown the ability to tackle – which, he needs to tackle better than he did this year, but he showed really that last year. The ability to cover No. 1 receivers, the ability to challenge them, the ability to get the ball every time his hands touch it, he’s just really come a long way. And his best football’s still in front of him. That’s the encouraging thing. You haven’t seen his best football yet.
Shields just turned 26 in December. There is a lot of football in front of him. If he continues to get better like he has over the past four years, than the Packers will have to be pleased with their rather large investment in him.
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