Shockey's dream car? He didn't grow up with a Bentley fixed in his sights. He grew up watching bad television and wondering what it would be like to crash through the fourth wall and hang with The Dukes of Hazzard. Less than a year after he signed his five-year, $8.5 million contract with the Giants, Shockey got an exact replica of the Dukes' car: that 1969 Dodge Charger christened the General Lee, complete with the ridiculously overpowered engine and the Confederate flag on the roof. He might get rid of the flag because, he says, "everybody knows I'm not racist"—then again, he might not get rid of it. All that's left to put the fantasy to bed is to find one Daisy Duke.
"That's all I'm looking for!" Shockey says to a reporter. "So if you're out there and reading this article? Call this man and get my number from him."
But don't buy the hick shriek completely. Shockey had the grades and test scores to play Division I-A ball out of high school; he's got his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, calling every 20 minutes about a business issue Shockey wants nailed. ("I told him I was going to fire him," Shockey says, "but I'm not going to. Drew's the best at what he does.") And Shockey's well aware that he's a target for every con man and baby-mama seeking a sap with a full wallet. He had a girlfriend for two years and says he never once had unprotected sex with her.
"It's the Southern accent that gets them," Shockey says. "Every girl I talk to asks, 'Where you from?' 'The South. O-kla-homa.' That's sooo cute.' I see what they're trying to do. A guy acting like he's my friend, he's buying me stuff? I see what he ultimately wants. I see through every one of them."
He can even, in the early-morning party hours, see all the damage he's doing to himself. Shockey doesn't know much about the last golden-haired New York icon from Oklahoma, about Mickey Mantle or any of the other stars who drank their way across Manhattan and ended up tragic. But if anything is going to save Shockey from the life being dangled before him, it's the fact that he is already starting to worry about it.
"If I'm on a three-day drinking binge, partying hard, I'm pretty good about saying, What the f—am I doing?" he says. "I feel so damn guilty, I can barely sleep at night. All I'm thinking is, I can't wait till I get home because I'm going to kill myself to get back in shape. After I went to Puerto Rico on my first vacation after the season, I tried to kill myself for the Pro Bowl. Then I go out to Vegas the first time, and I'm like, Aw, that won't happen again. But I'm telling you: I found myself waking up at four o'clock in the morning, doing pushups and sit-ups half drunk. I feel so guilty. I feel like I'm doing my body so bad."
It was never a world of men. For Luanda Shockey, men were a mystery, men left, men destroyed her family. In 1959, when Lucinda was two years old, she and her two sisters were in the backseat of a car traveling on a Southern California highway when a drunken driver forced them to hurtle into a tractor-trailer from behind. The girls' mother, Evylene Pendley, was sitting in the passenger seat and snapped her neck. The driver of their car, a friend of Evylene's, walked away. The girls were uninjured. While Evylene spent the next three years in rehab, learning to live as a quadriplegic, the girls were split up. Lucinda went to live with her dad near Los Angeles; Connie, 14, and Jolene, 8, went to live with an aunt about two hours away. When Evylene was released from rehab in 1962, she and the girls moved to her native Oklahoma; Dad stayed in California, though he and Lucinda kept in touch.
Connie had cerebral palsy. That left Jolene, all of 11, and five-year-old Luanda to run the household. They had to feed their mother, hold her drinking cup, wake up twice a night to turn her over. Evylene never complained. Every time the girls felt held down by fate, they needed just to look at Evylene's paralyzed figure to know they had nothing to cry about. One day Luanda came home from high school to find that her mom had checked herself into a nursing home. You've got to live your life, Evylene told her, and I will not hold you back. Growing up, Jeremy and James visited their grandmother often, combed her hair, held the cup to her lips. They learned too: You didn't moan about the weight life laid on you. You kept on.
Jeremy swears: He never drinks and drives. He learned all he needed to know from the women in his life. Father figures? He had none. Sure, Jolene's husband helped when he could, but there was no man setting the tone for Jeremy and James, no coach, no Big Brother. Jeremy had little respect for male authority; if a ref made a bad call in a junior high basketball game, "I'd get the ball and roll it all the way down the court and make his ass run and get it," he says. There was his mother and Aunt Jolene, and that's all. "I got here all by myself," he says. "I've done everything on my own."
Yes, he credits Hurricanes coach Larry Coker and tight ends coach Rob Chudzin-ski and Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope with refining his skills. He gives his offensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Rob Green, all thanks for plugging him into his system. But as a senior at Ada High School, Shockey was considered too light to play major-college ball, went unrecruited except by the likes of Wyoming and Montana State, and burned when lesser players got free rides at big programs. His memory is full of slights he cultivates like poison ivy. There's Ada High coach Gary McBroom, who, Shockey says, didn't lift a finger to get him a scholarship. ("He didn't qualify academically until late in his senior year because he hadn't taken the ACT," McBroom says. "Second, he was at that in-between stage. He wasn't a 4.4 wide receiver, he was a 205-pound tight end.") And there's Northeastern Oklahoma coach Dale Patterson, who, Shockey claims, held him back by not running enough plays for him and then threatened to ask the NCAA to investigate whether Miami had recruited him illegally. ("I never threatened him," Patterson says. "We did check with the NCAA to make sure Miami could recruit him. Nobody was sure he was eligible to leave. Everybody found out that he was.")