Raiders DE Matt Shaughnessy dives on a loose ball during a 2009 game against the Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston. AP Photo.
Oakland Raiders DE Matt Shaughnessy has been accustomed to living the life of an exceptional athlete since his high school days. Attending Norwich Free Academy, in Norwich, Conn., a city located about as far away from Oakland, Calif., as one can get, Shaughnessy earned letters in football, basketball, and track. However, he excelled the most in football and earned Super Prep All-American honors and was ranked in the top 30 defensive ends out of high school.
Recruited by the University of Wisconsin, Shaughnessy progressed each year in college. As a freshman, he recorded 39 tackles (20 solo) and 2.5 sacks. He improved as a sophomore, but had his break out year as a junior, recording 60 tackles (41 solo), 18 stops for losses, five sacks, and was named the team MVP. While he struggled during his senior year due to injury, Shaughnessy continued to be a force on defense.
To show the scouts that injury would not keep him from the NFL, Shaughnessy participated in the NFL Combine and Wisconsin's pro-day. He caught the eye of the Raiders, who selected him in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Transitioning from college football to the NFL may be a struggle for some, but not for Shaughnessy. "The transition was pretty smooth. I was a little nervous going through OTAs and mini-camps, but once everything got going I got acclimated, and it was a really smooth transition. I became more comfortable," said Shaughnessy.
His comfort in the NFL spotlight was apparent as he contributed 29 tackles (26 solo) and four sacks in his rookie season. "It feels great to do your part for the team and put up stats," said Shaughnessy.
Shaughnessy showed his wide-array of talent against the San Diego Chargers on November 1, 2009, when he recorded five tackles and the only sack of the game. In an interview after the game, Head Coach Tom Cable said, "Matt got an opportunity to play more probably than was planned and did very well. He got his first sack, made two or three tackles for losses, held the edge, disrupted the quarterback two other times. So, really, for a young guy, he continues to get better and better in his production and has been very good."
Playing alongside NFL veterans like DE Richard Seymour has helped him achieve his success on the field. "It helps me out a lot," Shaughnessy said. "I get to learn from them. They give me bits to see and learn in order to play better and to better understand what is happening on the field."
In addition to acclimating to the big stage of the NFL, Shaughnessy was also challenged with the transition from the small city of Norwich and the midwest city of Madison to the Bay Area. But in an interview with Raiders.com's Jeanette Thompson, Shaughnessy said that "Raider Nation is like having a family away from home," and that is helping him adjust to his new surroundings.
About to start training for his second season in the NFL, Shaughnessy says he strives to do better and keep improving, "my goal is to always get better."