Published July 02. 2014 1:56PM Updated July 03. 2014 12:05AM
Norwich — Matt Shaughnessy traced his football success that has led to a new contract with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals back to when he was 8 years old playing his first football game for Norwich Youth Football.
That led to a star career at Norwich Free Academy, a scholarship to play at the University of Wisconsin and an NFL draft selection by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. He played for the Raiders for two years before joining the Cardinals. In March, he signed a new two-year contract with the Cardinals.
An NBC Sports online player profile called Shaughnessy “a versatile and valuable edge setter in the run game.” The same profile said that last season Shaughnessy posted 36 tackles, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and seven pass breakups while playing on 45.5 snaps per game.
About 120 people gathered at NFA Wednesday to honor Shaughnessy as this year’s recipient of the Norwich Rotary and Women’s City Club Native Son Award.
Shaughnessy, a 2005 NFA graduate, sat with his fiancée, Heather Heise, and their 6-month-old son, Barrett, at the head table with his red Wildcats No. 92 jersey framed on the wall behind him. Several speakers honored Shaughnessy with various gifts in addition to the 46th annual Native Son Award.
The NFA Alumni Association presented him with a crystal plaque. Alumni Association President Gail Ennis said she hopes Shaughnessy will remember his hometown school when he looks at the plaque in his new home in Chandler, Ariz.
Shaughnessy, son of Kevin and Famatta Shaughnessy of Norwich, also received a lifetime membership in the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Deberey Hinchey presented him with a proclamation from the city that outlined his football career accomplishments.
Lori Danis, president of the Norwich Women’s City Club, gave Shaughnessy a clock “so you’ll never be late for a game.”
Shaughnessy thanked his family, the Norwich community, and all his coaches for “investing” their time in him to allow him to succeed in his career.
“I feel so blessed people took the time to mentor me,” Shaughnessy said.
Over the years, the Native Son/Daughter Award has honored scientists, educators, sports figures and military leaders. Rotary officials made it clear that Shaughnessy didn’t receive the award just for being a football star, but for his off-field community service as well.
Starting with his days at Wisconsin, Shaughnessy said he has been very active in the community, helping out at food shelters, making visits to hospitals and running football camps for youths. He continued those activities during his pro career.
Kevin Shaughnessy nominated his son for the award but said his mother couldn’t attend. Famatta Shaughnessy is in Liberia helping to build a church and a clinic in the name of Matt’s older brother, Jamie Shaughnessy, who died of a blood clot when he was 26. Matt Shaughnessy is helping to fund the project, his father said.
John Iovino, director of student affairs and retired coach at NFA, recalled coaching football when Shaughnessy was a freshman.When Shaughnessy sprinted downfield to stop a Fitch running back on one particular play, “I said ‘Boy, here’s someone special.’”