Shepard: 'I Feel Free'

Ole Miss junior cornerback Tee Shepard is always smiling.

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Whether on the field, walking to class or speaking to the media, he always seems to have a wide grin on his face. It makes sense. Though he grew up deaf, Shepard, from Fresno, Calif., overcame adversity and landed at a storied football program in Notre Dame as a five-star prospect. He never played a down for the Irish, instead leaving for Holmes Community College due to academics.

Then came his second opportunity - at Ole Miss.

“I feel free,” Tee Shepard said. “All the stuff is over with, and I don’t have to worry about the drama anymore. I’m just here to move on.”

But moving on wasn’t easy in the beginning. Even after his commitment to Ole Miss in 2014, Shepard had to work on becoming academically eligible. He did, but a few weeks into his first fall camp a year ago, he went down with a season-ending toe injury.

He’s dealt with more than his fair share of adversity. Shepard finds the positive.

“I’m not gonna say that I’m glad I got hurt last year,” Shepard said. “But over this year, I got stronger and faster. I’m a whole different player than what I used to be.”

Shepard’s not just advertising himself. The Ole Miss coaching staff have been raving about him all summer. A lot of that has to do with his experience in the defensive system.

“Last year (camp) was harder than this year,” he said. “This year I know everything going on. By me being stronger and faster it was easier for me to get through camp.”

That’s a scary proposition, considering Shepard was in line to potentially start over departed Ole Miss All-American cornerback Senquez Golson prior to his injury. He enters the 2015 season as the third cornerback, rotating with sophomore Kendarius Webster and junior college transfer Tony Bridges.

“Whenever we need a breather, we just rotate,” Shepard said. “It gives everybody a fresh start.”

“I kind of, for a minute, got a little bit down on him in the spring,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “But I thought he really stepped up and was a lot more consistent and did some good things (in fall camp). I feel confident playing him now anytime.”

The plan to rotate cornerbacks seems to be a good plan, especially when factoring in how Shepard has made so much of his fresh start at Ole Miss.

I guess we know why he’s smiling.

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