The New York Times
An outsider struggles to make it into the NFL
By Charlie Nobles

Sheldon’s journey to the pros had a limping start. Tiny Grand Valley State was the only school to offer a scholarship to the six-foot 1 inch, 225 pounder from Villa Park, Illinois. But he grew 4 inches and 80 pounds by his senior year. His agent, Dr. Da-I Ping --- a holistic practitioner near Detroit who also represents athletes, including Raiders cornerback Lionel Washington – told Sheldon that he probably would not be drafted that spring. Still, Ping promised to get him a chance at pros, and he delivered a week later.

'I told A.J. Smith, "listen, you’ll never believe it", Ping said, referring to the Buffalo Bills’ director of pro personnel." Both of Mike’s parents have M.S. and they’re wheelchair-ridden. This is such a great kid, the way he treats them, his work ethic. I promised myself I would get him into camp. A. J. said, ‘We can’t give him anything.’ I said, I’m not asking for anything. We want for this kid to have an opportunity. He said, okay.

Ping, who is selective about his clients, said Sheldon won them over right away.

"What impressed me about him is the way he treats his mother," Ping said. "When I met the family, he was wheeling her around in a wheelchair. Nothing was too good for her, and he had patients. When I saw that, I said to myself, I’ve got to get him on a team."

Sheldon spent the 1995 season on the Bills developmental team. Near the end of training camp in 1996, the Bills released him. "That’s probably my lowest point," said Sheldon, a tackle, who can play guard and center. "I flew home and began to wonder if I’d ever get another chance. But four or five days later, my agent called me up and said, you’re going to Miami."

Ping had made a similar plea to Dolphins. For Sheldon, it was pleasing but sobering. He was back in the NFL’s shadows, toiling on a developmental squad. He could wear Dolphins uniform, but only in practice, as so much fodder to prepare the real team.