Green Bay — It's a fact. Cornerback Sam Shields is the fastest man on the Green Bay Packers.
This will take time, but it's also entirely possible that Shields could rival Derrick Martin as their most dynamic special-teams player.
For a $7,500 signing bonus and a minimum contract, the Packers got themselves a free agent from the University of Miami with the speed and the versatility to find a way onto the 53-man roster.
Seven teams wanted to sign Shields when the draft ended Saturday. Green Bay, one of the two clubs Shields visited, won out.
"I liked Green Bay, the Hall of Fame, everything," Shields said from Miami. "I talked to my head coach, Randy Shannon, and I also did my homework on the depth chart and how I could fit in as far as special teams. I thought it was the best fit for me."
You won't find many wide receivers-turned-cornerbacks talking about their chances to play special teams. Shields didn't mean returning kicks, although he'd like to try that. He meant covering kicks.
Shields, 5 feet, 10½ inches and 186 pounds, did that his last three seasons at "The U," both punts and kickoffs.
"Gunner - that's one of my specialties right there," said Shields. "I love it. I (forced) a lot of fair catches."
Wiry and tough, Shields wasn't often manhandled at the line. Give him half a step and it was see you later.
At pro day March 26 in Coral Gables, scouts clocked his two 40-yard dashes in 4.30 and 4.33 seconds. Some teams then subtract 0.02 because of the grass surface.
So put Shields down for 4.28, a number that would blow away everybody on the roster.
"He can flat fly," an AFC personnel man said. "And he plays it with pads on. In the Texas vs. the Nation Game, when he turned to run, it was special."
Recruited as a wide receiver out of Sarasota, Fla., Shields started 15 of 36 games from 2006-'08. Each year, his playing time and production decreased. Shields finished with 75 receptions for 971 yards (12.9) and seven touchdowns, but scouts say he dropped way too many passes.
Rather than relegate Shields to a special-teams only role as a senior, Shannon moved him to cornerback last spring. He started 10 games there for a 9-4 team, breaking up two passes and intercepting none, and was named the team's most improved player.
"He might be that (special) teams guy you make a spot for," the AFC scout said. "He can run all day with wideouts, but his problem is finishing at the ball. It's all new to him. But he might be your fifth corner, and he might end up being your fifth wideout."
Before the events of March 18, Shields figured he might be drafted in the third or fourth round. Several scouts pegged him in the later rounds.
An unmarried father of two daughters, Shields was en route to pick up one of them at her grandmother's house in Sarasota. Shortly after arrival, Shields was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams). He spent that night in the Sarasota County Jail.
The story made headlines across Florida and was noted everywhere else.
Now move ahead to April 14, when the charges were dropped after Shields paid some court costs.
"Basically, everybody thinks I got pulled over because I was smoking pot and all that," Shields said. ". . . I was never arrested before. I never tested positive on a drug test. I smoked in high school, but I didn't like it. That was about it."
According to Shields, Sarasota police raided the residence shortly after he arrived because they suspected drugs were being sold there. Shields said he was not using marijuana and was falsely arrested.
Shields conceded that he deserved to be suspended by Shannon for the '07 opener because "I was immature at the time and wasn't going to class."
Shields also didn't complain about Shannon benching him for another game in '07 because of poor practice habits.
"He knows how fast I run," Shields said. "I didn't think so, but Coach Shannon said I wasn't running fast enough. He's tough. That's what I like."
Having interviewed Shields at length, the AFC executive expressed no misgivings about his character.
"Talking to him, going over his history, how he talked about other people and coaches. . . he never bad-mouthed anybody," the scout said. "You don't detect attitude in him. He's humble. Well-mannered. Unassuming. He'll do the best of his ability whatever they ask him to do."
Aside from apprenticing under Charles Woodson, Shields can't wait to resume his relationship with cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.
"When we were looking at my film, he saw the raw talent and said he could coach me up," said Shields. "I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. It will make me better in life."