Former Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard remembers watching OU pro day back when he was a freshman. Wednesday was his opportunity to take the stage.
Coming off a banner outing at the NFL Combine last month, Shepard didn’t perform any of the tests again. When you put up the numbers he did, no real point to doing something like that.
Improving upon a 4.48-second 40-yd dash? Leaping higher than 41 inches? Benching more than 20 reps at 225 pounds? Not incredibly likely.
When it came time for the position drills, however, Shepard did what he always does. Ran crisp routes, caught tough passes and showed why his draft stock continues to go up as we get closer and closer toward the NFL Draft.
“That’s what I was wanting to happen,” Shepard said. “I was training my butt off for the big stage, and I was just able to execute it. Practice does make perfect, and that’s all I was focused on – the stuff that they were going to have us do.”
Shepard began the process before the Senior Bowl looking at perhaps being drafted in the fifth or sixth round. But with each performance, each interview, he has slowly rose up the rankings.
It’s debatable whether or not Shepard will hear his name called on Day 1, but he has done everything in his power to put himself in that position.
“He’s, right now, the fifth highest rated receiver coming out,” ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Tuesday on a conference call. “He’s got a chance to be an early-to-mid second. He’s nailed the draft process. He’s done everything very well. He’s got all the intangibles in the world. He’s certainly got an opportunity.”
All 32 teams were represented Wednesday in Norman, but the bulk of them were there to watch Shepard strut his stuff in the final hour of drills.
Shepard knows what he does well, but one of the biggest reasons he has been able to succeed so much in the last couple of months is because of his willingness to accept what he needs to work on.
The word has been smooth in describing Shepard’s game, but it hasn’t stopped him from working on the little things.
“Just indicators within my routes,” Shepard said. “That’s what I’ve been working on and what I’ve been telling the scouts that I wanted to work on. Just coming in and out of breaks … just the little things. I got the big picture, but at the next level, that’s what it takes. The little things.”
Shepard said he’s doing his best to not look at draft projections, opting instead to simply focus on what he can control.
But when that weekend rolls around, he’ll be ready. It’s the moment he has been waiting for.
“Yeah, I have to watch the whole thing and see it play out,” Shepard said. “It’s going to be exciting.”