The black and teal of the Carolina Panthers fit new defensive tackle Shy Tuttle seamlessly. These colors molded him as a young fan. Now, it’s the fabric of a storybook full circle moment for the fifth-year lineman.
Tuttle grew up in Midway, a small town in Lexington County and just over an hour away from Charlotte. As a stand-out multi-sport athlete at North Davidson High, Tuttle grew up idolizing some of the teams’ legends such as Steve Smith, Julius Peppers and Stephen Davis just to name a few.
After signing a three-year $19.5 million deal in March, Tuttle is now living a reality that many players dream of – playing for their hometown team in front of family and friends. I caught up with Tuttle after Monday’s practice in a Q and A where he shares his excitement about being a Panther and the possibilities for the year ahead.
You were raised in Midway. What does playing for your hometown team mean to you?
TUTTLE: It means a lot. Just from the standpoint of my family not having to get on a flight or drive 11 hours down to wherever I was. You know, just being able to see them whenever I want on off days. Also, getting back into the community.
You came here from New Orleans. What is it about this defense that has you excited to get out here and compete?
TUTTLE: Some people say that it’s a 3-4 (defense), but it’s actually multiple…just changing up how offenses can’t just tee up on you. We change up our defensive front according to their scheme and put you in the position to make plays.
Have you met any of the legends of the team yet?
TUTTLE: I haven’t had a conversation with any of them. I’ve seen them a lot. They get a bunch of people dragging them and pulling them every which way. So whenever I get a chance to chop it up with them, I’d love to.
Who would you love to chop it up with the most?
TUTTLE: Man!…Julius Peppers. Growing up he was my favorite player. I love Steve Smith too. I love them all. Growing up, I used to want to be Stephen Davis
Running back way back in the early days of the team
TUTTLE: Uh huh
If you get to talk to Julius Peppers, how would you pick his brain?
TUTTLE: I’ll get to know him on a personal level, as far as what he was doing when he was in this position and get to talk football of course. When we are around (other) football guys, it seems like we’ve known each other for a while.
Like a Fraternity?
TUTTLE: Yes, especially like D-Line. Everybody gets along with everybody. Like you meet a dude the first day and it feels like you’ve known them for years. So it’s just hanging out, chopping it up and seeing what he’s interested in.
What do you hope to bring to these different looks on the defensive end?
TUTTLE: I just want to make the most of my opportunities. The defense is already stout. I just want to add to it
Add a little bit extra
TUTTLE: Yeah, and do my job. I’m not out here to be a superhero. At the end of the day, you’ve got to simplify the game.
Again, you mentioned that you’re from Midway. I’m from a small town too. What was that vibe like? Growing up in a small town?
TUTTLE: In a small town, everybody knows everybody. Somewhere along the line, everybody’s cousins or something. Everybody knows everybody, but at the same time there’s a lot of support. You go home and you’re like a local celebrity.
Since you’ve been signed how is that like, coming back to your hometown? Have they been reaching out?
TUTTLE: Yeah for sure. I’ll have a couple of my homies pull up for practice. It’s a cool feeling. I hop off the practice field and take Mom out to dinner or grab lunch with one of my friends. It’s like a dream come true.
It’s the first day of practice with pads. How are you feeling?
TUTTLE: I feel like I have to knock a lot of rust off. Coming out after an off day, you’re not going to be as crisp. Also, this is like practice three or four, you really are not going to be as good as you think in your mind. Football is like a game of repetition; especially with D-Line. It’s a whole bunch of technique. In the run pitch, you want to get your steps down. It’s all a feel thing. If you come out here and knock it out the first day, hats off to you. But for a lot of guys, we need repetition.
How has communications been on the D-Line on the third day of practice?
TUTTLE: It’s been good. We’re still early, so we’re learning how each other is. A guy like (Brian) Burns, shoot, you just let him go and you go off of him. It’s been good. It’s just taking the thinking part away at the end of the day. We’ve been playing this game for 20-plus years; not much thinking involved.
Not much thinking involved? Maybe when the season starts you have to think a little bit. Right?
TUTTLE: As a D-Lineman, honestly this may sound weird, but less is more. So you want to think as little as possible. Like getting your pre-snap reads, which formation the offense is in, look at the offensive stance. Other than that, you just go. You have to have a clear mind and focus and simplify. You don’t want to overthink it.
You went undrafted from Tennessee. Describe that grind.
TUTTLE: When you go undrafted, of course, you have a chip on your shoulder. It’s not necessarily the worst thing. No matter what position you’re in, you get an opportunity to play. All you can ask for is an opportunity to display yourself on the practice field whether you’re undrafted or not. You go out there and put your best foot forward. Don’t overthink it, just play ball. Give yourself the best chance to make the team. If not that team, you got to look at it like you’re trying out for 31 other teams.
You’ve done well in New Orleans. Now, you are here. How do you keep that chip on your shoulder?
TUTTLE: Remembering that all the teams passed up on me. And whenever I need motivation, I go back to where I was raised; how I was raised. I was raised by a single parent doing two or three jobs. I get a chance to change their lives along with mine. I play the game of football. I don’t want to take it for granted. I feel like working in a factory for such and such is way less fun than me playing football.