As any sports fan knows, lots of pro athletes and owners seem more motivated by greed than love of the game. (The National Football League’s recent labor negotiations are a good example of this.) But, believe it or not, there are plenty of players out there who are led instead by faith, love of family, and an appreciation of their profession.
Playing in the Off Season
Visanthe Shiancoe, a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings, is one of those players.
Shiancoe, who lives in Prince George’s County, was born in Birmingham, England, in 1980, to a Liberian mother and a Ghanaian father. He moved to Silver Spring as an infant.
“My mom thought that the U.S. would be the best place to raise her kids,” says Shiancoe. “She raised my brother [now a civil engineer] and I by herself in America in an urban area known for crime, kept us clean, and created a great foundation.”
Shiancoe fit right in early on. By 5 or 6, he, his brother, and their neighborhood friends were playing football and trading baseball and football cards. He played his first organized football game in Langley Park when he was 9 years old.
Not surprisingly, Shiancoe played football while in high school at Montgomery Blair in Silver Spring. In his four years at Blair, he played quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end.
Then it was onto Morgan State University, where he impressed pro scouts with his size and speed, eventually becoming the first graduate in nearly 30 years to be drafted by an NFL team (the New York Giants).
Since the Giants already had a receiving tight end, Jeremy Shockey, Shiancoe had to play back-up and was used more as a blocking tight end.
Although he would’ve rather been catching the ball, he took advantage of the situation and learned the position from Shockey.
“He taught me a lot,” recalls Shiancoe. “He took me under his wing, and I picked up his tenacity and hunger for the game.”
When Shiancoe became a free agent in 2007, he signed with the Vikings, where he continues to start at tight end.
Shiancoe, who has a wide receiver’s body—chiseled, tall, and lean—is health-conscious both on and off the field. In order to endure the punishment of playing football, he has his own training routine emphasizing strength and speed. In each two- to three-hour session, he runs, lifts weights, and performs agility exercises.
The guy is obviously driven to be the best. Still, he takes time to give back.
Shiancoe is spokesman for Afrokicks, a shoe manufacturer based in his mom’s home country of Liberia. His cousin runs the company, and the proceeds go to helping African countries.
He also gives back to his adopted home of Maryland by running a free football camp for 7th through 12th graders at Morgan State University that teaches the fundamentals of football and health.
“We cover all the essentials of an outstanding mind/student/athlete,” he explains.
Nevertheless, the NFL pro is already considering life after football. Marriage and kids figure into his plans, but Shiancoe also intends to become more involved in helping kids in Liberia. In the meantime, he continues to live in the same Free State neighborhood as his mom and brother.
Follow Visanthe Shiancoe’s life on and off the field at www.visantheshiancoe.com.