In 2010, Sam Shields came to the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent and remembers receiving a $7,500 bonus for signing.
Four years, 13 interceptions and 135 tackles later, the 26-year-old Shields is going into the first season of a four-year, $39 million contract and told ESPN Wisconsin that he doesn’t plan on changing a thing.
“I’m going to continue to work my butt off, make plays and hopefully down the line get another one. It’s just the beginning.
“I still sit back and think about what I went through when I first started, when I switched to D. I sit and talked to my friends and family about it. It still amazes me, like, ‘Hey, I’m in this position.’ It’s all a blessing.”
Shields was a wide receiver his first three years at Miami, catching 64 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons for the Hurricanes.
But midway through his junior year in 2008, Shields began to see time on the other side of the ball. He finished that year with just 11 catches for 124 yards on offense to go with eight tackles in limited time on defense.
By his senior year, he was a full-time defensive back, making 41 tackles, forcing a fumble and defensing two passes.
Despite the last start as a defensive player, Shields has evolved rapidly. He tied for 13th in the NFL last season with 16 passes defensed—the same number as Seattle Seahawks renowned Richard Sherman.
He also had four interceptions and 61 tackles.
“Sam’s best football is still in front of him,” said cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt. “I honestly believe he has two more years of ascending and then he’s going to play at that level for another four years.
“That’s six years of just really good football ahead of him. He might have more. I don’t know what he’s going to have after that, but I see two more years of getting better and four more of holding that type of high quality play.”
Shields’ rise showed what can be done when given a helmet and shoulder pads. When he signed with the Pack in 2010, he was ninth on the depth chart and started as the nickel cornerback against the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener.