Giants’ Danny Shelton talks ‘violent’ on-field mentality, team’s ‘dominators’

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Giants nose tackle Danny Shelton is a former first-round pick by the Browns who also has played for the Patriots and Lions. The offseason free-agent addition by Big Blue tackles a preseason Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby. 

Q: Describe your on-field mentality. 

A: Violent. I’m always talking to myself to be more violent. 

Q: Describe that transformation from being a family man and dog lover. 

A: It’s really just like opening the door and going to a new room. 

Q: Do you try to be a bully? 

A: That goes into like being a violent player, being a bully off the ball. 

Q: You tweeted once: “In the trenches there are no apologies given. Dominate or be dominated.” 

A: You have to be prepared for everything. … Every rep is a battle, you gotta have that mentality that you’re gonna be a dominator, or you’re just gonna try and survive. 

Q: What are your thoughts on Leonard Williams? 

A: He’s a dominator. He has that mindset. I feel like we all have that mindset on the line, we want to be great. Obviously he put up the numbers to be great. A guy that I’m excited to go to war with. 

Q: Dexter Lawrence? 

A: He’s another guy I see as a dominator as well. You have a big guy like him being able to run down running backs and blow people off the line — it’s crazy to see. 

Q: What are your impressions of Joe Judge? 

A: I think he’s a great coach … somebody that is easy to trust. The way he carries himself, and the way he controls the meetings and practice … he doesn’t change. That’s something that you need leading the team. I’m happy that I have this opportunity to play for him. 

Q:. How is he different from Bill Belichick? 

A: He definitely has the youth. He also has a louder voice in the room. They’re both great coaches. 

Q: What was Tom Brady like as a teammate? 

A: It was an opportunity for me to learn from an elite pro. 

Q: Daniel Jones? 

A: He’s definitely a guy who wants to win and I’m excited to play with. 

Q: Were you big when you were little? 

A: Yeah, pretty much. 

Q: What was it like growing up so big? 

A: Same as any other big kid, you go through your ups and downs and name calling and fun times and good times. I feel like I had a good childhood somewhat. I was able to make it here, so I’m not complaining. … I wasn’t such a bad kid, but my mom would have to come to school because I got in trouble sometimes. I feel like it’s all stuff that I was able to grow from, and continue to grow from. 

Giants defensive tackle Danny Shelton
AP

Q: Do you remember one memorable time when your mother had to come to school? 

A: Yeah, too many times. Anytime I got into fights, anytime I was suspended. I heard it 10 times more from her ’cause she was a single mother taking care of five. I was the boy that gave her a hard time. She had headaches because of me. 

Q: Were you angry as a young kid? 

A: I don’t know. … I’d say somewhat. I was also still learning and adjusting ’cause I was raised in Samoa for the first part of my childhood, and I came back to the States and had to learn English. So I was obviously dealing with the language barrier, and having to go school. 

Q: You’ve had to overcome more than most. The well-chronicled story of your older brother [Skeevie, 22 years old] being shot in the head [May 2011] causing you to think about not pursuing your NFL dream at the University of Washington. Tell me why he meant and means so much to you. 

A: He was an athletic guy. … He was really about the community. He was I would say my uncle’s favorite. He was a role model for me … for many kids, too. … Gone too soon. 

Q: What caused you to punch a goalpost in practice and break your hand as a college freshman? 

A: It was maybe two or three months from when my brother passed in training camp. I was still dealing with a lot of inner demons … flashbacks … just trying to work through all that. 

Q: You think of him every day, is that right? 

A: Most definitely. 

Q: He would be proud of the man you’ve become. 

A: Appreciate that. I try and make him proud. 

Q: How was he such a good big brother? 

A: He definitely didn’t make it easy for me. That’s a sign of a big brother. He knew that nothing was gonna be given, that you had to earn everything. He got the opportunity to travel with me to my official visits and unofficial visits. He was a mentor, somebody you go to to get advice … girl problems or school problems. He was also that father figure. You wanted to make him happy and proud. You definitely didn’t want to bring dishonor to the family. You just wanted to meet the expectations that he and my oldest brother set. 

Q: How long did it take you to get over his death? 

A: I don’t know. … Sometimes I feel like I don’t know if I’m over it, I don’t know if you truly do get over it. You just continue to try and live each day like he would want. 

Q: Why did you switch to No. 55 with the Browns? 

Then-Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton enters the field wearing No. 55 in 2017.
Danny Shelton with the Browns in 2017.
Diamond Images/Getty Images

A: That was my brother’s favorite number. He was a big Junior Seau fan. It basically became his identity. It was something that my family used as a way of coping … a sign from him. … Every time we wake up and we see No. 55 somewhere, we saw that as like our brother’s just letting us know that he’s with us, and still do today. 

Q: Do you remember the day Junior Seau committed suicide, May 2, 2012? 

A: A lot of people were hurt and shocked. It was just a big hit on not only the football world. 

Q: Giants fans are concerned about the offensive line. Maybe you can ease their concerns. Let’s start with Nick Gates. 

Q: He uses his leverage, he’s a tall guy, long arms … and I feel like he takes control of the line. He’s a communicator, he’s a guy that gets everything going for those guys. He’s the guy that they need to be. 

Q: Will Hernandez. 

A: He’s a dog, man. He’s a guy that’s ready to go to war. Same thing with Nick, you know? 

Q: Shane Lemieux. 

A: Shane’s a younger guy, and I feel like he’s grown a lot. 

Q:. If you could test your skills against any offensive lineman in NFL history, who would it be? 

A: [Former 49er] Jesse Sapolu. Just to be able to pick his brain while he’s in his prime, and also work on technique. 

Q: Did you learn anything about yourself during your 0-16 2017 season with the Browns? 

A: You definitely learn a lot about yourself and the teammates you have and the coaches you have. I appreciate and I’m thankful to have played with those guys. 

Q: On the flip side, describe the emotions winning Super Bowl LIII with the Patriots. 

Then-Patriots defensive tackle celebrates during the Super Bowl against the Rams in 2019.
Danny Shelton reacts during the Super Bowl in 2019.
Getty Images

A: As a kid, just like you grow up wanting to play football, when you reach that dream of playing in the NFL, you come that much closer to winning a Super Bowl, but you don’t realize that that much closer is the hardest thing ever … the long seasons, the long training camps, the multiple days of full contact, multiple injuries you go through. You put all this work for so many years, and you finally get rewarded, and you gain that title as a world champion. You just feel like you’re on top of the world for the first time that moment. 

Q: Did you get to hold the Lombardi Trophy? 

A: Yes sir. 

Q: Describe what that moment was like. 

A: It wasn’t as good of a feeling as watching the time go out after the game, and seeing the confetti and the fans rushing and teammates crying and everybody hugging and jumping around. 

Q: Do you think you’re in the best shape of your life right now, or no? 

A: I think I am getting there. 

Q: What is your weight? 

A: Right now it’s 345. That’s what the coaches want me at right now. 

Giants defensive tackle Danny Shelton steps over an obstacle while running drills during OTAs.
Giants defensive tackle Danny Shelton
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Do you have to watch what you eat? 

A: Definitely. I’m a big guy, so it’s easy for me to gain weight. 

Q: So what kind of foods do you avoid? 

A: I try to keep a low-carb diet. 

Q: What is fatherhood like for you? 

A: Every day is something new, and every day you have to find a way to cherish the moment you have with your kids. After long days of work, and getting beat up and coming home sore, you kind of forget you’re sore because your kids want to run up and jump up on you. You become more cautious and aware, and everything I do I want to do for my kids. 

Q: Your son Crue Skeevie was 2 in July and your daughter Saylor is 6 months old. Describe his personality. 

A: Right now he’s in that terrible-twos phase. He’s learning to share, at the same time he doesn’t want to share, and gets aggressive. He’s the best brother. He’s always wanting to carry my daughter, and always watching me and copying me. 

Q: Describe your four dogs. 

A: I have a pit bull, a husky, a malamut mixed with a husky and a French bulldog. I think I’ve always been kind of like an animal lover. Our family was gifted a dog when my brother passed, and kind of helped with coping. That’s what I’ve always seen, my dogs as a family member. It’s always good to see them when I get home. 

Q: Who gifted you the dog, Tama? 

A: A family friend. He had a litter of Rottweilers. They gifted to all my family when I left for college. He was really my younger brother’s best friend. Every time I’d visit, I’d always wrestle with him, play with him. 

Q: You’ve been involved with shelter dogs. 

A: I just wanted to help out those shelter dogs, especially the pit bulls. Sometimes pit bulls get misunderstood. 

Q: Did jui-jitsu help you? 

A: Just having body control in close combat and use your leverage, it’s a great thing to have when you’re on the line. 

Q: Boyhood idol? 

A: The Rock [Dwayne Johnson]. 

Q: Three dinner guests? 

A: My brother and my family. 

Q: Favorite movie? 

A: “The Lion King.” 

Q: Favorite actor? 

A: Jackie Chan. 

Q: Favorite actress? 

A: Jessica Alba. 

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer? 

A: Usher. 

Q: Favorite meal? 

A: My wife’s food … bread pudding. 

Q: What is it like being a New York Giant? 

A: I think it’s been a great experience so far. Being able to put on the blue. Coach had alumni come through and talk to us. There’s no reason not to follow the formula that these guys have to us from their experiences and what guys went through to become world champions. We have the blueprint, just have to trust and continue to work. It’s been great to hear the history and see the excitement that the Giants bring to New York, New Jersey.

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