HAYWARD, Calif. -- From the build to the reads to the way he goes about his work, it's hard not to see a bit of Hardy Nickerson, Jr., in Nathan Shepherd. He hasn't been as prolific as the former Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd linebacker, but his game is very similar: He's not the fastest player on the field, but he's a big body who knows where to be, and when. He plays a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker in high school, but he profiles as a middle linebacker at the next level.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder shares more than just his frame; he's also setting his sights on the academic elite among football programs. Recently, he went on an East Coast swing that hit up some of the top academic institutions in the nation.
"I went to Columbia, Penn, I went to Princeton's junior day, I have looks from all the Ivy Leagues," Sheherd said at the Passing Down 7on7 NorCal regional last week. "I need to take my ACT, and I just took it, so I'm going to give them my scores, and they should offer me. They said they really like the way I'm playing. I'm looking for a good education. I'm all about a good education first, before my football."
Recently, Shepherd also visited UCLA and USC, and he also has looks trom Wyoming, Michigan State, San Diego State and Colgate, but he's looking for more attention from the big boys. Last season, Shepherd had 32 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss.
"I'm looking for those big schools," Shepherd said. "I'm going to Stanford's camp, and I'm going to Columbia's camp, I know, for sure. I might go to Cal's, but Stanford is going to be one of the main ones I'm going to."
As for where he'd go, if he had his druthers? He has two: "One, for education, and one for football. Even though Columbia went 2-7, I love Columbia's facilities. I love the team out there. Pennsylvania and Columbia -- those are my two educational powerhouses. I think, for football, I think Cal would be one of my dream schools, because it's close to home, good football, solid football team."
Shepherd went to the Bears' junior day, and hopes for a bigger look after camp.