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Bobby Shaw, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1998-2001

August 13, 2012
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Bobby Shaw:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself   professionally since your time in the NFL and how you got started in this line   of work?

I’m doing very little now – I was working in real   estate for a little while, but the way the market is…I’m not doing that   anymore. I had a golf shop for a year and a half – from 2007-2009, That was my   primary thing then. I had lots of   fun doing it, but unfortunately I had to close it.

I’m enjoying being a husband and dad now.   I have two boys – 5 1/2 and 1 1/2 year olds – and am  really enjoying being a full-time dad. I enjoy spending quality time with them   – it’s all about my boys.

You put up some big numbers in college at Cal – what made you so   successful in college and how frustrating was it for you to be a sixth round   pick?

You know, I was projected to go much higher, even as a junior in college. You never know how things are going  to go on draft day. What team needs what.

I was definitely disappointed but I never felt   that my draft status would define me. It just increased my desire to succeed   and passion to prove people wrong. I did that all through my career. There were many people who didn’t think I’d be   nearly as successful as I was in college at Cal. And even more people  with those same kind of thoughts about me in the   NFL.

I worked harder at the little things – routes, catching the ball, making   people miss….It drove me more. And I’m sure I’m not the   only player to ever be   disappointed on draft day. You just have to make the best of it and don’t   let it define you. You just   have to improve your self and make yourself better, regardless of where you were   drafted.

You wound up in Pittsburgh in ’98 after being drafted   by Seattle that same season. How did that come about and what made you decide   to sign with the Steelers?

It happened by accident really, but I ultimately had no say-so in the matter.   I have no regrets and am happy it happened.

I was on Seattle’s practice squad for the first six weeks of the season.   One of their receivers had a bad game against the Raiders and got released. So   they got me off the practice squad an on to the active roster for two weeks. Then they had lineman issues   – one got hurt and they needed room on the roster that week. They technically   cut me and tried to sneak me back on the   practice squad through waivers, and then   re-sign me to the active roster in a couple days…but the   Steelers caught it. There were about three or four teams that tried to sign me   but the Steelers had the worst record at the time so they got to sign  me.

Who helped you to adjust to the NFL as a rookie both on and off the   field in Pittsburgh, and how so?

The best thing about Pittsburgh – and I now this  from being on a few teams – is that it’s a   football town. From the organization to the fans. It’s truly a family affair –   that’s what sets Pittsburgh apart.

The players all bond together. And I had friends   on the team I had known for a long time before. I didn’t feel alone due to the   atmosphere. They were comedians and all accepting guys.

Will Blackwell – he and I are like family. We’ve known each other since high school. He  helped me most with adjustments and the city. There were no egos on that  team.

After a tough first few seasons in Pittsburgh   where Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs, the team turned it around in   2001 and went 13-3. How did the team and coaching staff handle the struggles   and turn things around in 2001?

It starts from the top down. The family atmosphere  keeps the team centered. The family support system makes the tougher times   easier. It was frustrating but we all hung out and did what we needed to   do to create that winning chemistry. We  talked about the frustrations and dealt with them in a positive and productive   way – we didn’t always leave it to the coaches to solve   things. We self-policed ourselves.

How tight was the receiving corps – especially with the depth at   the time and the focus on the running game, was it frustrating getting less   pass thrown your way?

The receivers had a lot of fun, to say the least.   We were extremely tight – I can’t put into words how much fun we had. We had   no egos. Me, Hines, Courtney Hawkins, Will Blackwell, Charles Johnson….you never knew where the next  joke was coming from. All of us were pranksters.

How did humor play a part on those Steelers teams and who were some   of the ringleaders behind the humor and hijinks – and examples?

We knew how to joke and be professional at the   same time. I was a good balance. Bettis   was funny – but with his status as a proven   vet, he could get away with more than we could  (laughing).

Cowher was  great at allowing some leeway for fun – to take a moment to allow guys to laugh then let players self-police themselves afterwards. That balance allowed   us to enjoy the game and   being with one another on and off the field.

Tell us about your connection to the Bay   Area music/rap scene – especially with Andre Nickatina who referred to you often in his   lyrics?

We represent each other out here! Andre is my cousin – I mean, my real cousin. We’ve been tight   like that since birth. He’s always been   there for me and I’ve always been there for him – a lot   of people don’t know   that. People should  definitely be up on Dre and support his music. He’s a real  pioneer that has major fan support all over  the country.

You left Pittsburgh after the 2001   season. What prompted that departure and how hard was that for you, especially   after the recent success of the team?

Unfortunately, that’s the business side of  football. Especially after a great season, it’s the unfortunate side of the  business.

In my second and third year I put up good numbers  considering our run-oriented offense. I had the highest yards per catch, and   was near the top in receptions and touchdowns too. In my fourth year, we   switched offensive coordinators from Kevin   Gilbride (now the New York Giants coordinator) to Mike Mularkey, and my  playing time and numbers were drastically cut down.

I felt I wanted to be a bigger part of an   offense. That’s the tough part of the business – weighing comfort versus doing  all you can do to be all you can be, Re-signing would not have allowed me to do that. I didn’t want to   take the safe route in my career.

I had a career year after that in Jacksonville, and then Buffalo after  that. I was able to accomplish a lot of my   goals by leaving, but it was still unfortunate. I don’t regret   it though.

What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh, and   what makes them so?

Going ninety yards versus Baltimore to win the   division was definitely one. Wallace just   broke that record last season! Prior to that, it was a long-standing thing. It was a Sunday night and a big game. The timing of the play was such a big   moment for me – my biggest moment.

Also, the relationship with the guys. Today or tomorrow, if we all met for dinner, it’d be like we never left each other. The love we had for each other made it a great   experience beyond just playing football.

It was a great place to be – the best place I   ever played. I always wanted to reciprocate the love I got from fans. I never  tried to showboat, I just wanted to show them my appreciation.

Any last thoughts for readers?

It was fitting – Hines’ retirement speech and his talkingabout the love he had for the fans. I understand that. I’m just   another player in the long line of that “Black & Yellow”, that  appreciated every bit of his time in   Pittsburgh.

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