Visanthe Shiancoe up close and personal

Vikings tight end is ready for the Saints

Shiancoe is listening as Judge Judy berates a deadbeat ex-husband.

"I love it when she cusses people out," Shiancoe says. "You know, 'cause some people have to learn."

TWO LITTLE GIRLS PEER into the private dining room at the Pancake House in Eden Prairie, giggling. Their eyes are glued on Shiancoe as he digs into a huge meal.

Tony Nelson
Shiancoe runs a preseason route against the Seattle Seahawks
Tony Nelson
Shiancoe runs a preseason route against the Seattle Seahawks

"What's Shiancoe eating?" he says, his voice reverberating with over-the-top enthusiasm. He looks straight at the TV camera rolling nearby. "Right now he's eating nasty-ass oatmeal. With nothing on it."

The Vikings star hams it up and the little girls love it.

"Autograph," they whisper loudly. "Autograph!"

It's mid-June, and Shiancoe is filming a promo with KARE-11. Dave Schwartz, sports reporter, grins ear to ear as Shiancoe describes the "Shank Special": egg whites, oatmeal, fruit, pancake, orange juice with a straw.

"I'm not gonna lie—this oatmeal with nothing in it does not taste good," Shiancoe says.

Schwartz asks Shank if he's more tired of questions about Favre's will-he-won't-he retirement drama, or that pesky penis incident. In 2008, Shiancoe accidentally exposed himself in the locker room as a FOX camera rolled. He said through his agent that he was embarrassed, adding that at least he didn't "just come out the swimming pool."

"I don't mind that because I represented myself right," Shiancoe tells Schwartz on the locker room incident. "There's not really things I'm getting sick of, because I accept the business of it."

Shiancoe's love affair with the media is in full flame. In the locker room after every game, he's surrounded by a pack of cameras and microphones. Reporters love him because he's always willing to talk.

"Shank's a great guy," says Dawn Mitchell, sports reporter for Fox9. "He's never too busy for you."

Shiancoe will talk about anything, sprinkling his comments with colorful jokes. And he's no dummy. Shiancoe knows the press can help him with his future goals—which might include eventually transitioning to the other side of a microphone, like his good friend Michael Strahan.

When there aren't any reporters handy, there's always Twitter. In May and June, Shiancoe lit up the Internet with his back and forth with former teammate Darren Sharper, now a safety with the New Orleans Saints.

Sharper had been trash talking about his desire to hurt Favre, saying "X marks the spot" in reference to the quarterback's surgically repaired ankle.

Shiancoe shot back on ESPN Radio that Sharper had a target on his knee—he'd had surgery, too.

Sharper couldn't stay mum.

"So visanthe stankoe X marks the spot on me, how bout X marks the spot for how many catches and TDs you'll have come Thursday night. X = zero."

Shiancoe responded by Tweeting a photo of Osama bin Laden at a shooting range, a number "42" in red letters across his chest. A thought bubble coming from bin Laden's mouth read, "I'm Darren Sharper."

In a slow sports news cycle, the Twitter war made headlines for days.

It's not the first time Shank has fueled sports gossip. In August, several reporters heard that Favre had sent texts to 10-15 people, including Vikings players and executives, saying he was going to retire.

"What I'm hearing is that it is true, that he did decide to retire," Shiancoe said on ESPN radio. "But just like I said, until I hear it from his mouth, I'm going to leave it at that."

The story exploded all over the news. The next day, Favre denied sending the texts.

"Shank," Favre said. "That's why I love him."

The experience didn't sour Shank's enthusiasm for expressing his thoughts on football publicly. As the media madly chased Favre's August 17 return to Winter Park, Shiancoe thought of a famous helicopter chase involving another NFL player.

"Helicopters acting like they are following O.J.. Where is the bronco?" he tweeted.

The KARE-11 promo shoot is wrapping up, and Schwartz decides it's time to give Shiancoe a media tip. He tells his guest that his gray sweatpants and white t-shirt are too casual for TV. How about a nice button-down—like the blue-and-white checked Oxford that Schwartz has on?

"You look like Q-bert," Shiancoe retorts.

As Schwartz's face falls, Shiancoe tries to cushion the blow.

"Your shirt is fine, man," Shiancoe says. "I think you should throw on a wife beater. I don't like the white collar underneath."

The waitress brings the bill and hands it to Shiancoe.

"$45.99?" Shiancoe exclaims.

The waitress grins.

"Last week he asked me about coupons," she says.

Shiancoe shakes hands and jumps in his Range Rover. He heads toward Winter Park, where a glossy stack of photographs await his swooping signature. Everyone else autographed their glory shots two weeks ago, but somehow Shiancoe never got around to it.

As he drives, Shiancoe shares his philosophy on the press.

"It's all about how responsive you are with the media," he says. "Usually I'm around to talk. Sometimes I talk too much. Sometimes I explain too much.

"I say, 'Hey, edit it.'"

SHIANCOE STEERS INTO the parking lot of Best Buy in Eden Prairie. He pulls into a space two slots away from the front entrance, sliding the nose of his black Range Rover right up to the sign that says "Family Parking."

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