Q: Where does your nickname "Seabiscuit" come from?
Dan Sheldon: (laughs) That seems to be a popular question when people hear that. When I was a junior in college we always had a big press conference right before the season. That summer, my friend Andy Ross and I worked out together and had a competition to see who could become stronger, and we were seeing some great gains in our strength from that friendly competition. P.J. Fleck was around at the time and he said, "Have you guys been taking horse steroids or something? You're like Seabiscuit, that little fast horse" and he mentioned it in the press conference and people just went nuts. He explained it as that small, fast horse that had with a determination to win. It was a different nickname, but if you look at the symbolism I liked the way it fit so it ended up sticking. It was funny, last year when I was in Arizona, Coach Green eventually was calling me Seabiscuit. The funniest thing was during the preseason when the fans were yelling it and asking me to sign autographs "Seabiscuit." And I'm thinking, "Oh man, how do you spell it?"
Q: Being new to the Colts organization and the fans, could you tell us a little bit about your background?
DS: My parents are still together. I have a younger brother who is 22, a younger sister who is 17, a niece from my brother who is 2 now. We have a really good family. I had a brother, Tim, who passed away when I was 15 and those situations are always tough, but we stuck together. And I've had amazing support from my family. The time and dedication that my dad has put in to help me get to this level has really helped me as well.
Q: What kind of support has your dad given you that's been so special?
DS: When I was young and growing up, my dad had a weight room in our house where he would work out every morning before going to work. Starting when we were seven or eight he started getting us up and bringing us in there with him and he would get us any kind of new contraption he thought would help. He would go out and throw a ball and would do anything we ever needed. He was constantly out there working with me and my brother. As I started having some success in high school, I found out I was moving from running back to receiver, so he felt that I needed to have a Juggs machine at the house so I could catch enough balls to be successful. Then I started punt-returning in college and the Juggs machine turned out to be the best thing for me when it came to punts. I still go home on weekends here and there and catch a couple hundred punts. I think we're up to 70 balls that he's accumulated over the last four years. We had a pitching machine for baseball, he built a batting cage in the garage and in the yard, anything we needed for sports was supplied for us. Shoes, baseball bats, receiver gloves -- I was probably the only guy in college who had more receiver gloves than he knew what to do with because my dad would be out buying them. He wanted to make sure I had a new pair for every game, plus what we had been given, so it turned out that I was using a new pair of gloves per half. But that was only the materialistic things. The time that he would put in was the most important. Anytime I wanted to come back to catch punts or passes he would come back from work to do it. The time he would take to make sure we got our practice in, he would always make that time. You can have a machine, but if you have no way to use it, it's worthless. The dedication that he's put in is equally as important as the dedication that I've put in to being successful.
Q: You mentioned that you lost a brother at age 15. How has that influenced you as a person and as an athlete?
DS: That was probably one of the most influential times on my life as far as what direction I was going to take myself in life; not as an athlete but as a person. My older brother was seven years older than me and was a half-brother from my dad's first marriage. But he was the closest person I had in life. He was the guy I looked up to, he was an amazing person and a great athlete. And when a situation like that occurs, it changes your whole outlook on life and changes the way your mind works and the way you think. Fifteen was a difficult age because it's a time when so much is changing in your body and your life and the way you're thinking. You're becoming an individual as a person, and I did a lot of thinking during that time and figuring out who I wanted to be as a person and what I wanted to achieve in my life. I used a lot of the examples that I would remember that he would say or things I remembered him doing and just the type of person he was. It was something I wanted to create my character based on; the type of person he was and the way he reacted to people and the way people reacted to him. That one moment would be the turning point when I decided how hard I needed to work to achieve what I wanted, and how important it was to be successful and be a good person and have good morals.
Q: It sounds like you reacted to it in as best a way possible and in a way that is also a really nice tribute to him.
DS: That's what I came out of the whole situation with. The majority of people are fortunate enough that something like that never occurs -- and then there are people that have much worse situations occur. I look at it from my dad's point of view of having lost a child; I can only imagine how that is. There's two different ways you can take it. You can accept it and make the best out of any situation you're given or you can become hateful and go the other way. That doesn't get you anywhere because you can't change what happened no matter how you feel about it. It was a life-changing experience and I think it is responsible for the person I am today.
Q: You're not one of the taller receivers, but listening to you talk and looking at what you've accomplished, I can tell you have a strong commitment to conditioning and strength training which has really helped you with your quickness.
DS: Starting at such a young age was really an advantage, and back then people were saying "You shouldn't have young kids strength training." We weren't body-building, we were just exercising our muscles at the time. Our dad had us starting off with light weights and his idea was just to get out muscles trained for the type of exercise to come. It wasn't about doing heavy weights and trying to hurt ourselves, we slowly climbed in weight, but it really helped me develop a base. Like you said I'm not the biggest, but the fact that I was able to put some muscle on at a young age and developed that as I got older really helped. It made me a little more durable and quicker and got my muscles a little bit more in shape for the stress that football brought to the body.
Q: In college you established yourself as a deep ball threat didn't you?
DS: Yeah it's funny the way things turn out. I ended up becoming more of a big play, deep threat receiver. I had the ability to run by people, and we would use a big-play offense. I didn't have as many receptions as most receivers, but I was able to have success and put up some different types of numbers.
Q: Because of your physical height, some people dismissed the fact that you were able to battle effectively off the line. With your physical conditioning do you feel pretty confident in your abilities to battle guys off the line?
DS: I do. I've learned in two years that different teams run different schemes and there is a spot for everybody. I was not the biggest, tallest receiver out there, but I have a different kind of game. It was fortunate that I had the opportunity to come to Indianapolis because my agent and I felt this was the type of offense I would have a much better shot of fitting into. You can beat a defender off the line with a maneuver, using quickness, and you can beat them with force and power. There's never been one way of written success. There's many different examples of amazing receivers who do things differently. Especially here, being behind Marvin Harrison, he's not very big either and he's been to how many Pro Bowls? People are going to say what they want. And they can always retract what they said later if you prove them wrong.Check back tomorrow for more of our exclusive interview with Dan Sheldon where he'll talk about his skills as a returns specialist, his college career, and some surprising information about the Colts' interest in him -- exclusively for our ColtPower Insiders!