Redskins S, Sha’Reff Rashad Interview (video)
Sha’Reff Rashad played college football at the University of Central Florida. He totaled 259 tackles, 27 pass deflections, 10.5 tackles, and 14 interceptions throughout his collegiate career. He entered the 2009 NFL Draft, but went undrafted. He signed with the Giants and played on their practice squad. In 2010, he played for the Redskins. This is a VIDEO interview! This was conducted in March of 2011.
Sha’Reff Rashad : How’s everybody doing? This is Sha’Reff Rashad, #38, for the Washington Redskins, and welcome to http://prointerviews.org/
Strauss : Who was your role model growing up?
Rashad : I would probably say Emmitt Smith as far as football players are concerned. At the time, I was from Pensacola, Florida. I was growing up for the most part. He actually had a card shop that was in town, and pretty close, so we would go by the card shop all the time, and look at cards. Every once in a while, he’d make a surprise appearance. I would say Emmitt Smith was probably my biggest influence football-wise. Other than football, as most people would obviously say is my dad. He helped me out in whatever sport I was playing at the time. Everything from soccer to trying to run track, but football-wise, it was probably Emmitt Smith. He was obviously a great player, and he was a good guy off the field as well, which is important.
Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?
Rashad : My high school football experience was probably different than a lot of the recruits that go to Division One-type schools. I actually went to a smaller school, and I’m very glad that I made the decision to go there. It prepared me extraordinarily academically for anything that I faced in college. I did the same things sports-wise. I was at small school. I want to say we graduated with around 100 people my senior year. The football team probably averaged around thirty people, by the time I was a senior. It was a little different. I’ve seen teams that have had up to 150/160 guys, we were definitely nothing like that. I got a lot of playing time out of it. Actually, it ended up helping me out as far as getting into college was concerned. I did play safety and wide receiver. I thought I was going to be a wide receiver coming out, but apparently, some of the teams saw the film I had playing safety and they liked it, and liked it a lot. It got me a couple offers. UCF [University of Central Florida] was one of the schools that ended up wanting to take me as a safety. But, definitely it was awesome. My little brother goes there now, and he is kind of going through the same thing I was at school. But, it was fun. It was a great experience. Like I said, academically and athletically, I think I was prepared really well for college for sports and in the classroom.
Strauss : What was the transition like from a small high school to a big college?
Rashad : It was pretty big. It was pretty big. Like I said, the high school was a little bit small. I would say my transition might have been a little different than the other guys I was coming to school with. Going from a pretty decent sized high school to come to UCF, which is now the 2nd-largest school in the nation. It was definitely different. First, we started with camp before school even started. I kind of got introduced to the football aspect of it first. Guys were a lot bigger, a lot faster, a lot stronger. I was a competitor though. I wanted to be the best I could. It was definitely a lot harder making plays, and doing things like that. I had to lift weights, get faster, and get stronger. But as far as the school was concerned, it was a lot bigger as well. I got used to the environment pretty quickly. But, I think the transition went pretty well. I had teammates who helped me out. Atari Bigby was one of the guys who was here, who helped me out freshman year. He’s with the Packers now, and just won the Super Bowl. It was good. I had a lot of help, academically, and they had staff to help us out and everything. Football wise, I had a lot of good coaches to help us make the transition a lot easier. But, it’s definitely a step up from high school to college. I used to carry’s his [Atari Bigby] pads, helmet, and get his food, and things like that. I was a freshman, so it’s things like that I guess you had to do.
Strauss : Speaking of, during your true freshman year, you got some playing time. You broke your hand in the second game against Penn State, what was that game like?
Rashad : It was crazy. As big as the transition was coming to practice and camp, it was even bigger to go out and do that on the field. Actually, at the time, I set the record for the youngest starter in Division One football. I was seventeen when I got to UCF, so my first game, when I actually ended up starting, I was pretty young. I was maybe pushing 195 weight-wise, that’s being generous. I was probably closer to 185, so I was pretty small. But, I had a lot of fun. The energy was great. My first start was against Penn State, and like you said, it was the first or second play of the game, I broke my thumb, and I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know until the game was over. I was trying to take my glove off, and they had to cut my glove off of my hand. Obviously, I didn’t know I was injured as I played through it in the game, but I ended up needing surgery to get a couple pins in my hand. So, I wasn’t able to play for the rest of the season, and was able to redshirt that year. It was actually really good for me that I was able to get adjusted academically in the school a little better, learn the system a little better, all before I came back the next year, and was a four-year starter after that. I came back my redshirt freshman year and started Johnell Neal, Jason , and Joe Burnett. We were all actually four year starters at UCF, so it worked out pretty well for me. I learned a lot my freshman year. It happened in a different kind of way, as far as getting injured was concerned, but I think that the redshirt year was really good for me.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory throughout playing at UCF?
Rashad : I would say my favorite memory was the Conference Championship that we won. My freshman year we were zero and eleven which was probably one of the toughest seasons I have been through playing football. But we never gave up. Obviously, we knew what we were capable of. We came back the next year, with pretty much the same team, and had one of the best turnarounds in college football history. We were able to keep building on that. Two years later, we actually won the conference championship. That was probably my best memory. It was a great game. It was on TV. It was actually one of the first championships that I’ve ever won playing football. It was a big day. Just to be able to share that with all my teammates, it was a really big day. That was probably my favorite game out of UCF.
Strauss : What was the hype like for the draft during your senior season?
Rashad : I was hearing a lot of different things from a lot of different people. Before the year, I sat down with my parents and decided that to just to focus on my senior year first. I didn’t want to let draft talk, whether I was going to get drafted, whether I was going to go undrafted, let it affect how I played my senior year. All in all, how I played my senior year was going to affect what I was going to be speculated about. The better I play my senior year, the better chance I was going to have at getting drafted, and the better chance I have of making a team, one way or another. I really didn’t want to think about it my entire senior year. As soon as the year was over, I was kind of bombarded with the whole draft/free agent situation. But, I was glad that I didn’t let it affect my senior year because that was the year I was able to make some improvements football-wise, that were able to help me out a lot.
Strauss : Throughout college, you had interceptions and big hits, what’s the better feeling?
Rashad : Ah man! Interceptions or Big Hits! Believe it or not. I was a receiver in high school, so my entire freshman year in college was spent learning how to tackle. Obviously, I knew how to get people down, but there’s an art to tackling, that I haven’t mastered, and I don’t think anybody has completely mastered it. You continue to get better at tackling. I would say I was struggling my freshman year just learning how to tackle properly. I didn’t have to do it in high school obviously. I played safety, but I was more of a center field-type safety. I wasn’t really involved in the run game at all. I think because of that and the struggles that I had my freshman year having to work harder to learn how to tackle. For Interceptions, I was a receiver so catching the ball came naturally. So I would say, because of that, bigger hits come a little bit less often, and they’re a little bit more satisfying than interceptions. I say an interception that gets taken all the way back for a pick-six is probably the best feeling for a DB, but I think a big hit, for me personally, because I know the things I have gone through to get better at tackling. I think that helped me out as far as which one is a little better. I say big hits are a bit more satisfying for me.
Strauss : What was your actual draft day experience like?
Rashad : It was a little different. I would say. I knew going into the draft, on the first day, it was going to be a miracle if it did happen. So, the first day was just spent looking at other guys, guys I knew, and being happy for other guys who are getting this opportunity. The second day was the day I was looking at going, I was told anywhere from the fifth to the seventh round to free agency. It was myself, my mom, my dad, and my little brother at the house, we were just watching it together. We were walking around the house as it was going on with all the TV’s on. I actually ended up laying down in my room, I would say mid-sixth round, and actually fell asleep. I’m not sure how I managed to fall asleep one of the most important day’s of my life, but I managed to fall asleep in the room. I didn’t wake up until I got a call from my agent letting me know that the teams were offering me. He was just letting me know that all the teams that were calling, and it was a pretty quick decision. I was trying to wipe sleep out of my eyes while I was making a decision on what team I wanted to go to. It was good though. Once it happened, I was really relieved because the buildup is hard to explain. Guys who are looking to be drafted and not sure where they’re going to be in a week, where they’re going to be living. It’s a little different. It’s a different experience that a lot of people get to have. Once I knew where I was going, I knew that I was going to end up in New York. I knew that I was going to get the opportunity that I was working for, it was a really good day, just because the opportunity came, and I was blessed enough to sign with somebody.
Strauss : What was your first training camp like with the Giants?
Rashad : Training camp was good. Training camp is training camp. It was hard like it is advertised to be. Coach Coughlin is a pretty tough coach. He’s very understanding and very knowledgable of the game. He made sure he has tough players. That’s something that the Giants’ organization was known for. Camp was definitely hard, just like college camp was hard. I’m sure that every other teams’ camp, is just as difficult. Making the transition was a little different. I think the one thing about the NFL and the NCAA that you realize is the professionalism that goes along with it. You can feel, I wouldn’t say tension, but there’s a little bit more pressure. You’re always playing football for run, but it’s not just for fun anymore in the NFL, you try to make a living. I think you could feel that. As far as learning, it’s a little bit more difficult. Obviously, the guys got a little bit bigger and a little bit faster, and I didn’t know that was possible coming out of college, but it was. I learned a lot. My teammates helped me out a lot. I was able to look to the other rookies that came in with me when I was there. It went well. There were ups and downs. I had good practices. I had bad practices. I had good preseason games. I had preseason games that I felt I could have played a little bit better in. Ultimately, I was put on the practice squad with the Giants which wasn’t my ultimate goal. Obviously, everyone wants to come out of camp, and get a starting job whether it’s on special teams or defense. I learned a lot during camp and also throughout the year, while I was on the practice squad. I was really, really thankful for the opportunity to be there. I think camp was a great learning experience, I got better at many things football-wise. Also, off the field, learning the game as well. It was a great experience.
Strauss : What was the transition like to the Redskins?
Rashad : The transition to the Redskins… It’s hard because you have to get used to different, I wouldn’t say different traditions, but different ways that things are run in different organizations. Each runs things a little bit differently no matter where you go. Practices be run a little bit different. As always, my teammates helped me out. I walked in the first day, I met all of the DB’s, and met the defense. I slowly got acquainted with the coaches and things like that. I think after a week or two, you get used to it. In the end, it’s all about performance based. It’s going to come down to what you do when you put the pads on, what you do at practice. It was hard, always, just like going to a new school. My dad was in the Navy when I was little, so every couple years, I was at a different school, so I would say it’s kind of comparable to that. You have to feel your way around for a couple days, maybe a week or two. Once it comes down to it, it’s all about what you do in practice, and what you do once you get out and play football. Everything else, will come with time. I love the Redskins’ organization. I hope to stay here as long as I can.
Strauss : What are your expectations for next year?
Rashad : My expectations are probably what you would expect out of anybody that wants to play football. I want to play. I want to get on the field, and I want to be active all year. Obviously, there is a lot that comes with that. Hard work is one of those things. I’ve been working hard in the offseason getting in great shape and learning as much as I can, football-wise or anything that can help me. I want to get on the field whether it be special teams, defense, anywhere I can contribute to the team, I think that’s one thing everybody has in common. You want to do whatever you can to go on the field and help the team win. My goal for myself is to play. It’s that simple. Obviously, I appreciate any chance that I get, whether it’s being on the roster. For myself, I know what I am capable of, and you watch a lot of the times with the guys, and you’re watching the game. You’re like, ‘I can do that. I can’t wait until my opportunity.’ You have to make your opportunities. My expectations for myself are to be on the field this year, and to make plays for the team.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory in the NFL?
Rashad : I wouldn’t say a favorite memory, as far as a specific event. I think that the one thing that I’ve enjoyed about the NFL so much is that anytime you’re going somewhere where you’re not familiar, you’re always worried about the team is going to be like and things like that. I think that what I’ve taken away from each and every year that I’ve been in the NFL is brotherhood. Team, locker room, camaraderie, it’s hard to explain. It’s a general answer that everybody gives, but I think if I were to never play another down, I think that I would appreciate the friends that I’ve made, the coaches, the players, the organizations that I’ve become acquainted with. I think that is my favorite thing in the NFL, along with playing is just meeting a lot of great people and making a lot of good friends.
Strauss : Here’s a fan favorite question. If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
Rashad : Any ice cream flavor… uh… I’d have to go with Rocky Road. I’m not exactly sure how you can equate that to a person, but I don’t know I guess I’ve been through a lot as far as the process of getting into the NFL, getting into college, and things like that. I would say Rocky Road is something that would kind of symbolize how I felt and how I’ve gotten to where I am. A lot of ups and a lot of downs. Still working on it, and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve everything I’m set out to do.
Strauss : Your younger brother is in high school, what is the advice you give him?
Rashad : I just try to lead by example for the most part. He sees how hard I work when I come home. He sees how much goes into it, and how well you have to do in school, so that you can get an opportunity. We’ve sat down and talked a couple times about exactly what goes on and what was necessary. But, for the most part, it’s just by example. He’s doing well on his own for the most part. But, if he ever has any questions I try to help him out, football-wise, school-wise. Anything even choosing colleges, and what’s going to come with your decision, things like that. But, he’s bigger than I am. He’s a linebacker and he’s about three inches taller than me, and outweighs me by about ten pounds. He’s sixteen, he’ll be seventeen pretty soon. I just give him as much advice as I can, from experience. I think experience is the best way to teach. I feel that anything I’ve been through that I know he’s going to have to go through, I try to share and take the time out for him.
Strauss : For someone aspiring to play football in the NFL, what’s the best advice you can give them?
Rashad : The best advice I can give to someone who wants to play in the NFL would be to not to look to far ahead. Everything that you do now is going to contribute to your chances to play in college and in the NFL, to play at whatever level it is, you want to play football. Don’t think it’s just going to happen. You have to focus on this practice, this game, this meeting, this playbook. You have to do the things now because you can look back and say, ‘I wish I would have done that.’ Just try to make it where you’re not going to have any regrets as far as effort is concerned as far as studying is concerned. Because those are the things that are going to help you. The better you play today, this week, and the better you play this game, and that’s what is going to help your chances of getting into the NFL. Try not to look too far ahead, but focus on what’s going on right now. Do your best in the current situation and that’s what is going to lead you to your goals.
Strauss : Is there anything you want to tell your fans or Redskins fans that we haven’t really discussed or talked about?
Rashad : First off, I’d like to thank you. I’m not going to sit here and act like I have a huge fan-base by any means. But, thank you all the people that have supported me to get me to where I’m at today. Hopefully, I have a long way to go and good things ahead of me. I just want to thank anybody that has been supporting me so far. My family, my friends, and things like that. But as far as fans are concerned, I would say, look out for me. I’m planning on doing big things and making a name for myself. Continue to support me, and look out for me. I’ll be out there soon.
Strauss : Thank you so much for your time Sha’Reff. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Rashad : Thank you. No problem.