The relationship between Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard was formed long before they starred as linebackers at Stephenson High or made the decision to both attend LSU.
“Perry, he is like a brother to me,” Sheppard said. “I have known him since I was seven or eight. We have been together since being on the same park ball team at Wade Walker.”
Over ten years later, the Georgia natives are still together - both on the field and off.
“Our dads are best friends, we are best friends, and our two brothers are the same age and have grown up together,” Riley said. “It just keeps going.”
Back at Stephenson High in 2006, Riley and Sheppard were ranked as three-star linebacker prospects with offers from a slew of Southeastern Conference schools.
“I looked at LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Virginia Tech,” Sheppard said. “And Tennessee and LSU were the final two, definitely.”
Being recruited to the Volunteers by then defensive coordinator John Chavis, Sheppard said that turning away the Chief was one of the toughest decisions he has had to make.
“That is another conversation in it’s own,” he said. “We go back to my recruiting days, and he has a really close relationship with my dad. My dad was leaning towards me going to Tennessee, because he wanted me to grow up under Chavis, not just as a football player but also as a student.
“But, coach Miles did a great job recruiting us,” he added. “We grew a close relationship with coach [Bradley Dale] Peveto and [Bo] Pelini, and they showed us how much the LSU nation wanted us. Everyone treated me like I was already on the team.”
When Chavis left Tennessee to fill the same post at LSU three seasons later, Sheppard and Riley were able to have the best of both worlds.
On Saturday, Chavis’ game plan will likely focus on stopping the Green Wave’s running back, Andre Anderson. So far this season, Anderson has rushed for 646 yards and six touchdowns on 131 carries.
In 2008, Anderson started the first seven games of the year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Despite only seeing action in those games, he totaled 864 yards and seven touchdowns and was named as both a Doak Walker candidate and All-CUSA honorable mention.
If Chavis needs any tips to give his linebackers in this one, he might turn to them first.
“We met up with Andre our eighth grade year, then we were together all four years in high school when he was our starting running back,” Sheppard said.
With names like Reggie Ball, Kraig Lumpkin and Jermaine Cunningham on the list of recent Stephenson High graduates, it is no wonder that Sheppard and Riley would line up against a face as familiar as Anderson at some point.
Of course, with game week preparations in full force, the text-messages and phone calls have begun.
“It makes it a lot more fun; makes the experience a lot better,” Sheppard said. “Andre has been texting me all year. I asked him what is going on over there with them, and he said they were just saving all their tricks for us.
“I also texted him a good bit last year, just complimenting him because he was having such a great year.”
Stopping him this weekend, the Tiger linebackers said, would be the solution to slowing the entire Tulane attack.
“We think the offense revolves around him,” Riley said. “He is a bigger back, so he is downhill a lot and runs hard. If we can take him out, then we shut the running game down.”
Though teammates in high school, Riley said that he couldn’t recall a time when he was able to put a shot on Anderson.
“He was the star running back, so we couldn’t hit him like the other running backs,” he laughed. “We never had that chance to hit him, hit him.
“We are definitely excited about this year.”
What should fans expect when the former SHS teammates find each other on the field?
“We don’t plan to get run over,” Riley joked. “If we stop him in the hole, then there will be some trash talking.”