Shepard approaches football as though he is the astronaut of his family trekking into a new frontier. However, the senior from Oklahoma had his late father and uncles play the sport all for the Sooners and some at the professional level.
"When you compare Sterling, I compare him to Steve Smith as far as his work ethic," said Coach David Robinson of D-Rob Sports and Fitness Training, who has been working with Shepard ahead of the combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in February. "He's resilient."
"That's what I'm all about: handling business," Shepard said.
Standing at 5'10'' and weighing 191 pounds, Shepard led the Sooners in catches (86), receiving yards (1,288), and receiving touchdowns (11). His efforts helped Oklahoma represent the Big XII in the College Football Playoff, though the Sooners fell 37-17 to the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl.
"The thing I like about Sterling is he's very explosive coming off the ball," said Robinson. "For him to be his size and for defensive backs to give him the cushion like he's 6'2'', 6'3''. I really like how explosive he is coming in and out of his breaks. He transitions real smoothly out of his cuts."
The smooth route running is a trait Shepard hopes is on full display before the bevy of NFL scouts and front office folks in Indianapolis this week. A couple of receivers who serve as inspiration for him are Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and Giants wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. Constantly Shepard is analyzing film of these dynamic pro receivers, and he seeks to emulate such precise route discipline at the combine.
"Just that I can run clean routes, get in and out of my breaks pretty fast, just all around smooth routes, show that I have speed too," Shepard said as to what he wants to display at the combine. "I think I can clock a decent 40-time. I don't know what people are expecting. So, that's kind of what I want to show them."
Aside from 40-yard dashes, bench presses, and skill drills, being interviewed by various NFL franchises is another momentous station at pro football's largest job fair. The Heritage Hall product got a taste for the process down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in late January, so the experience will be more familar to him than it will be for some of the other combine participants.
"Yeah, I got a pretty good look at what that was going to be like at the Senior Bowl. I did a few interviews already. I feel prepared for it.
"It was just some of the things I heard about the combine and kind of seen somewhere and I felt really good. So, I feel more confident going into the interviews having the kind of overview of what it's going to be like at the Senior Bowl. So, it builds your confidence a little bit. And, like I said, it gives you a little look at it beforehand."
According to Shepard, some of the intangibles that he can bring to a team is leadership. Even as a younger player for the Sooners in 2012-13, Shepard would help bring along teammates in practice and in games. His leadership and desire to be a team player were inseparable. But Shepard explains there is more to leadership than what teammates see on the field.
"It's just leading by example off the field as well," said Shepard. "I'm not a guy that's going to get into any trouble, and I feel like guys respect guys who don't get into trouble off the field and handles his business on the field. "
According to Robinson, good places for Shepard could include Kansas City, San Francisco with Chip Kelly, and even New England, teams that have a history of using slot receivers of which Shepard fits the mold. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen what Shepard can show the scouts in Indianapolis coming off a Senior Bowl where he won the Practice Player of the Week, but the son of the former Redskin, Saint, and Cowboy is confident and prepared to make a good impression to the rest of the league this week.