In February 2020, Sheldon Richardson embarked on the trip of a lifetime just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and shut down travel.
Richardson received a "last-minute" phone call from a close friend back home, who asked if Richardson would like to join for a birthday trip to Thailand. The defensive tackle quickly embraced the opportunity for his first "truly" international trip.
"Somebody said the Bahamas are not 'out of the country,' but you get your passport stamped, so," Richardson quipped.
He called the time in Thailand peaceful and serene, the perfect way to unplug in between NFL seasons.
One day delivered a bit more adrenaline than the others, though: a visit to Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, Thailand. Richardson had the opportunity to participate in an "animal encounter" with a massive tiger, and he later posted a photo with the majestic feline to his personal Instagram account (@sdotrich91).
"I felt at home. I feel like I'm an apex predator myself, so that's one thing for sure," Richardson smiled.
"[Second] thing is that I was going to make it out of that cage," he added with a laugh. "My only thought process: 'He might get a body part, but I'm making it out of this cage, that's for sure.' "
One year and two months after returning to the U.S., Richardson also returned to the Vikings, re-signing with Minnesota after two seasons in Cleveland.
Richardson started all 16 games for the Vikings in 2018, recording 49 tackles, 4.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. He previously played for the Jets (2013-16) and Seahawks (2017).
We caught up with Sheldon recently for a Water Break, presented by Crown Royal, to ask him about some additional unique Instagram posts, why he's a big "Grease" fan and what he most enjoys about being Dad to his 5-year-old daughter.
Q: You use #gerberbaby on a couple of your throwback Instagram posts; were you actually a Gerber baby?
A: "I was just a cute kid. I was definitely a cute kid. I look back at some of my pictures and I'm like, 'I definitely could have been a Gerber baby.' "
Q: You have a cute kid of your own! What do you like about being a girl dad?
"Being a protector, unconditional love, most definitely, for my daughter. Just seeing her develop her own personality. Just honestly seeing her grow up and be her own person. Her dislikes, her likes."
Q: Another throwback photo is one of you and Tim Hardaway at his youth basketball camp. How did that come about?
A: "Yeah, I was juicy then (laughs). It was great. It was [an activity we did as part of a] family reunion. … It was a fun experience. And I met Tim Hardaway – so that was awesome."
Q: Did you love basketball first?
A: "Football was always my first love, but basketball was definitely second. I played baseball, too, up until high school. Guys started throwing major league pitches and stuff like that, so I couldn't hit 'em. It was either a home run or a strikeout for me."
Q: You're a St. Louis guy. Give us your assessment of Imo's Pizza – I hear it's controversial?
"It's definitely controversial. If you like thin-crust pizza, you know, me personally, Imo's is the best pizza ever. More [toppings] than bread. The extra cheese, and I usually go heavy. What do I get? Jalapeno hamburger or sausage and bacon. Extra cheese. And then you've got to get your crushed red peppers – unless you get jalapenos, because then you don't need the crushed red peppers. … And you've gotta get your sweet-and-tangy wings. Other than that, people like toasted ravioli from there – I'm not a ravioli guy, but I hear those are good."
Q: You played for the Jets for four seasons, and New York pizza didn't impress you?
A: "It's too greasy for me. It's not bad. Some of them are pretty good. It's the first time I've seen, like, salami and stuff on pizza. … It was good. Definitely the culinary capital of the world when I was out there for four years, and it was an awesome experience. … But I definitely choose Imo's over all that, no question. It's not even close."
Q: Well, speaking of 'greasy,' you've said you are fan of the movie 'Grease'?
A: "Definitely grew up watching that movie. I don't know, for some reason I really liked the movie. … John Travolta, he was one of my favorite actors growing up. And then 'Cry-Baby.' Something about those … old, surreal, kind of like gangsterish-type deals. It was fun."
Q: Who's your favorite character in 'Grease'?
A: "Definitely John Travolta's [character Danny Zuko]. A little lover-boy action, playing a gangster. Definitely Travolta. … But now, Johnny Depp was better in 'Cry-Baby.' I'd choose that over 'Grease' now."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Oct. 19, 2021.
Q: The Vikings defensive line room has a lot of fun personalities. Here are some quick-hitters. Which d-line teammate is…
Fastest? "Danielle [Hunter.]"
Loudest? "Griff (Everson Griffen)."
Best cook? "I do not know … oh, wait. Stephen [Weatherly]. I've seen Stephen's IG, and he's cookin'."
Best dressed? "Probably Griff."
Best karaoke singer? "I have no idea. Me."
Best trivia partner? "Stephen. The thousand useless things he knows."