It seems so wrong to call Shawn Jefferson a receivers coach. What he does is bigger than that — as his players will attest. He is a life coach.
I spent about 40 minutes with him on Tuesday for a couple of stories that ran in the Detroit News on Wednesday. He was a member of the star-crossed 1994 Chargers team and a teammate of the late Junior Seau. In discussing that, he gave me some insight into how he coaches his players and believe me, he does more than go over routes, techniques and coverages.
“Everybody is in to football these days to get what football can give them,” he said. “I got in it to give back.”
He talks to his players every day about acquiring life skills, doesn’t matter if your name is Calvin Johnson or Titus Young. His message is the same.
“How are you going to transition?” he asks his guys. “What’s going to happen when old man adversity comes and hits you? When old man adversity hits you in football, we can deal with it. We’ve got people who have our back and can get us through.
“What about when they aren’t there? What about when it’s just you and there is no game to play? How are you going to handle it?”
The players will push back sometimes, Jefferson said. They will say, “Why are you putting this all on us?” Jefferson’s answer is always the same.
“I am putting this on you now because when old man adversity comes it will be like water off a duck’s back,” he said. “There will come a reckoning point after football. There comes a point when old man adversity will visit you and he don’t give a (crap) about how you’ve got a gazillion dollars in the bank. All that money you’ve got won’t get you out of it, so what are you going to do?
“The room usually goes silent. Here’s how you do it. When old man adversity comes, answer the door. Every time. Don’t run from it. Say ‘Come on. I am ready. Let’s go. Whatever you got ain’t going to be hard enough.’”
He told me a story about the flight back to Detroit after the horrible loss in Chicago last season. The passing game stunk on that wet, windy day. The receivers were silent on the plane until Nate Burleson sent out a group text.
It read — “What are you going to do when old man adversity comes?”
Jefferson said, “Nobody texted back. Everybody knew. Been there, done that. When Wednesday came, we hit that practice field hard and didn’t look back.”