Sam Shade was not the most decorated member of the 1992 Alabama secondary which terrorized college defenses, but he was certainly the most physical.
The hard-hitting Shade was a prototype in-the-box safety -- comfortable supporting the pass, while cleaning up the running game as a sure tackler. Those were skills he took to the NFL for eight seasons, where he rang up 563 tackles (116 solo,) 8.5 sacks, 3 FF and 10 interceptions.
Shade did not come to Alabama on an athletic scholarship, although the Birmingham prospect was certainly recruited. He was on an academic scholarship with the Tide. And, after completing his playing career, Shade went on to earn a Masters from Alabama, and is now the DBs and passing game DC with Samford.
And, he has excelled at Samford as well, coaching three NFL draft picks. Not bad for an accidental coaching career that began in finance and insurance.
However, playing such a rugged position, and being such a physical player, has taken a physical toll on Shade — one of 2000 former players that sued the NFL for concussions in 2012. Sam states that he has already noticed problems in his short term memory, and has been a vocal critic of the previously-undisclosed dangers of the game. “When you start talking about having problems with your mind where you get dementia and you forget who people are and you start forgetting things and that type of stuff? I wouldn't have signed up for that.”
And, given Shade’s career trajectory and smarts, he wouldn’t have had to sign up for it either. As he said, “I didn't have to play football to support myself...Football was what I chose to do for a small amount of time in my life.”
But, what he did in that small time in his life was spectacular. Best of luck to Sam and continue to fight the good fight, while mentoring a new generation of smarter, more informed players.
31 days ‘til kickoff. Roll Tide.