Shepard Looking Forward to A&M Junior Day

You would think that the No. 1 player in the state of Texas wouldn't have to answer questions about his game, but that's the situation that Cypress-Ridge (TX) quarterback Russell Shepard finds himself in as 2009 recruiting starts to heat up across the nation.

You would think that the No. 1 player in the state of Texas wouldn't have to answer questions about his game, but that's the situation that Cypress-Ridge (TX) quarterback Russell Shepard finds himself in as 2009 recruiting starts to heat up across the nation. Recruiting experts point to his incredible sub-4.4 speed and his cat quick moves that helped him rack up 1525 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns with his feet. However, while his feet garnered the attention of national recruiting scene, it has been a double edged sword in eyes of the Houston area playmaker.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative that I've gotten all this attention and all of these opportunities," Shepard said. "But being so athletic has worked against me I guess you could say. Some people don't see me as a quarterback and as a receiver or a defensive back."

However, while some so-called experts see the five star prospect making plays with his feet instead of his arm, Shepard is convinced he can be a difference-maker as a signal caller and a leader of a Division I offense. He's got some well-respected college coaches that are backing up that opinion and recruiting him as a pure quarterback.

"Rich Rodriguez and Mike Sherman have said I can play QB at the next level. The Stanford coach offered me after seeing me throw ," Shepard said. "Coach Sherman has coached Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck and knows what it takes to develop into a top quarterback. When you hear coaches like that tell you they want you as their quarterback, that's what I listen to."

Shepard does make it clear that all he wants is a chance to prove himself at the next level. He realizes that at the collegiate level nothing is given to you. Everything must be earned.

"I'm not saying that I won't play another position," Shepard said. "I just want a fair shot at competing for the job and see what happens. If it turns out that I can help my team better at wide receiver, I don't have a problem with that. All I'm asking for is a legitimate shot to compete at quarterback."

The Cy-Ridge product just returned from a junior day event at Texas, a weekend that Shepard highly anticipated. It was the first of three junior days planned for the talented product who will also visit Texas A&M next weekend and LSU on February 23. What did he think of the trip to Austin?

"I went up there to hopefully get my offer and see where I fit in their plans," Shepard said. "I know they have several good quarterbacks on the roster and they just received a commitment from Garret Gilbert. I wanted to see if they would give me a chance at quarterback. That's all I really want."

So what did Mack Brown and the coaching staff tell Shepard about the opportunities to play quarterback for the Longhorns in the future given their depth chart and plans for the position?

"He was honest with me. They will have six quarterbacks on the roster and they need to figure some things out this spring. They think I can be a difference maker at receiver," Shepard said. "But he said he would make an exception for me and if I wanted a shot at QB, he'd give it to me."

Where does that leave Shepard and Texas?

"I enjoyed the visit. They are all good people there," Shepard said. "I just have to see how they handle the quarterbacks this spring and if I feel comfortable about the situation and weigh my options. There are a lot of schools looking at me as a quarterback only that have a lack of depth at the position."

One of those schools is just down the road in College Station. Shepard will be visiting Texas A&M for its second junior day this next weekend. Head coach Mike Sherman is recruiting him as a pure quarterback, and with development sees the potential for the Houston area product to be an excellent signal caller at the next level.

"Coach Sherman made a great first impression on me. He's developed pro quarterbacks and a lot of his staff came over from the NFL," Shepard said. "I want to meet the coaching staff and get a feel for how they will develop the players and what they have planned at quarterback. I'm excited to get down there. Coach Sherman sees my potential as a quarterback, and he knows what it takes to succeed at that position."

So where do the Aggies stand with Shepard going into next weekend's junior day?

"They are up there. I'd say that Texas A&M and Texas have a big advantage right now because of their location in-state. A&M is less than an hour from my home, and Texas is a couple of hours," Shepard said. "OU is something like 7-8 hours away. Michigan and Florida are a long flight away, and LSU is four hours away. I'd like to stay close to home if the opportunity is right, but if I have to leave I will."

In fact, Shepard is already planning several summer trips to visit some of these out-of-state programs. Besides the LSU junior day event on February 23, he's considering summer camps at OU, Michigan, Florida, and LSU. He feels it's necessary considering he wants to enroll at his school of choice at mid-term in January.

"Since I'm graduating in December, I feel I need to attend some of these summer camps and use them to evaluate the schools like I would an official visit," Shepard said. "My plan is to pick a school and make my decision prior to the start of the football season in September so I can get this out of the way and focus on my senior year."

Aside from distance from home, Shepard listed three major factors that will go a long way in determining where he plays his college ball. First, the coaching staff must have a sincere interest in developing his quarterback skills and giving him a shot at playing quarterback. Second, he wants to major in marketing and will evaluate the business schools of each college. Finally, he needs to feel comfortable with the school, the players, and the coaches.

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