It may have taken him six years to do so, but Visanthe Shiancoe is finding himself the center of attention more and more these days. For much of his career, the Vikings tight end was anonymous. He was a blocking tight end for the Giants. When New York looked to pass the ball to a tight end, it was usually Jeremy Shockey who got the ball, not Shiancoe.
In his first four seasons with the Giants, Shiancoe played in 64 games but caught just 35 passes and scored just three touchdowns. He was a priority signing of the Vikings and head coach Brad Childress said that when he scouted Shiancoe for the Eagles, he was impressed with his offensive skill set and promised big things from the big TE.
It didn't happen nearly as quickly as hoped. In his first season, he started 15 of the 16 games he played for the Vikings and caught just 27 passes for 323 yards and one TD – not the earth-shaking numbers Childress may have anticipated.
"It didn't go as well as I had hoped it would," Shiancoe said. "I felt I could be a big contributor to the offense, but it just wasn't happening early. It wasn't due to a lack of effort or trying. It just never seemed to click."
His 2008 season showed signs of improvement. His numbers went up (42 catches for 596 yards), but more important was his effectiveness in the red zone, scoring seven touchdowns. But the arrival of Brett Favre kicked up Shiancoe's offensive power another big notch.
Shiancoe set a career high with 56 catches and 11 of them went for touchdowns. He not only led the team in touchdown catches, emerging as Favre's favorite end zone target, he scored touchdowns in 10 different games. He became a weapon and posted the best numbers of his career. He gave a lot of credit to Favre, saying his mere presence forced the offensive skill position players to pick up their respective games a notch.
"He is the best at reading defenses and being able to find where the mismatch is at," Shiancoe said. "It put a lot of pressure on all of us receivers to execute each play. If we did our job, we were the open target and he has a knack of delivering the ball to the hot receiver on just about every route."
After becoming one of the most dangerous red zone tight ends in the league, it is understandable that Shiancoe is looking forward to another season working with Favre – "he's made a lot of guys a lot of money by throwing them touchdowns," Shiancoe joked, so when he heard Favre had undergone the ankle surgery many have claimed he needed to play a full 2010 season, like most Vikings fans, Shiancoe read the information much the same way when the story broke.
"I see it as promising news," Shiancoe said. "Why are you getting ankle surgery? That was the first thing that came through my mind. It seems like he got it for (the 2010) season because that's what he needed to come back to the Vikings. Whatever is best for him and his family and his old body – old, old, old, old body. I stress that. He has to make a decision that's good for him."
Jokes aside, Shiancoe said that Favre brought the "it" factor to the Vikings offense that had been missing. In his first two seasons with the Vikings, Shiancoe was catching passes from Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger and Gus Frerotte – not exactly the type of QBs that give defensive coordinators nightmares. Having Favre running the offense made a world of difference – for the offense in general and Shiancoe in particular.
"You guys seen the type of team we had last year," Shiancoe said. "(Favre) was almost like the missing piece of the puzzle. Everything just jelled together once he came. He was like the missing link and basically brought out the talent of a lot of guys on the team. People excel through that. He's the orchestrator of this offense and brought up the morale of the team as well. People had confidence."
Along the way, Shiancoe has come out of his shell. After coming off to some observers as somewhat sullen and reserved in his first season, Shiancoe became much more outspoken over the last two years. He said that it wasn't intentional, it just happened.
"I've always been the same person – I like to have fun," Shiancoe said. "When things weren't going well, I wasn't the most outgoing person in locker room, but there weren't many people crowding around my locker to ask me questions. It took the wardrobe malfunction to get me noticed – for good or bad."
It was an unintended naked shot of Shiancoe on FOX following a Vikings win that got him his first notoriety. Media people swarmed him afterward and liked what they heard. His popularity has grown ever since. Shiancoe coined the phrase "Favre-a-palooza" and said he has been in demand for interviews ever since.
"Now I can't go into the locker room without you guys (in the media) coming around," Shiancoe said. "I sometimes wonder which was better, when you guys ignore me or I turn around and the camera lights are in my face."
Whether he intended it or not, when Shiancoe speaks, people now listen. When asked if he had heard comments made by former Viking and Shiancoe locker neighbor Darren Sharper about Favre being a target of the Saints defense when they meet Sept. 9, Shiancoe responded as expected – defending his QB by saying Sharper may not be safe himself – setting off a Twitter war between the teams that is already adding to the hype of the season opener.
"Sharper had surgery too – and on his knee," Shiancoe said. "So if ‘X' marks the spot on Brett, I wonder what would mark the spot on Sharper.? I know which one it is. I know exactly which one it is."
It took Shiancoe seven years to become an NFL celebrity, but it's something he is getting used to. He may have created a media monster that has helped make him one of the most quote-worthy Vikings on the roster – a far cry from the quiet, to-himself player he was when he first took the field as a member of the Vikings.
"It's been a wild ride," Shiancoe said. "It took a while for it all to click, but I think the team is glad with what I have brought to the table. I waited a long time to be a contributor to an offense and I intend to just keep going. The best is yet to come."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Shiancoe's star keeps rising
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