University of Alabama Crimson Tide
North Gwinnett High School
OVERVIEWIn three seasons with the Crimson Tide, the coaching staff was wondering if Shepherd would ever develop. He was no challenge to All-American right offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, but when the massive drive blocker left for life in the National Football League to terrorize defenders as a San Diego Chargers first round choice, the coaches knew there would be huge shoes to fill.
Suddenly, Shepherd began to give the coaches pause. He was one of the better players throughout 2013 spring drills and Nick Saban decided that it was the junior’s time to show if he could handle the right tackle position. Two seasons and 27 starting assignments later, the two-year starter closes his career allowing just three of the total of 33 quarter-back sacks charged to the Tide offensive line.
Shepherd was one of those “under the radar” signings by Alabama, graduating from North Gwinnett High School early in order to enroll at the university in January, 2010. He had joined the team after being ranked 18th by Rivals.com as an offensive guard and 22nd by Scout.com.
The Prep Star All-Southeast selection chose Alabama over scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham. Despite his early enrollment, he was red-shirted in 2010 and limited to seven appearances as a reserve tackle in 2011. With Fluker having a sensational season, Shepherd would see sporadic playing time in 10 games behind the right tackle in 2012.
The Tide needed to replace three starters from their 2012 front wall and Shepherd’s preseason performance made him the logical choice at right tackle entering the 2013 campaign. He proved to be the line’s most consistent performer, as he did not allow any sacks through 13 games before yielded two of the seven sacks that Oklahoma recorded vs. the Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
Shepherd ended the 2013 season with ten touchdown-resulting blocks and 63 knock-downs, recording an 84.8% grade for blocking consistency. While others on the team opted to leave school early for the NFL Shepherd remained one of the team’s steadying forces during the 2014 campaign.
Much like he did in 2013, Shepherd did not allow any sacks during the regular season. Unlike 2013, no opponent got to a Tide quarterback vs. the right tackle during the bowl season. He provided 35 key blocks that included 24 knockdowns, paving the way for a dozen touchdown runs by Alabama ball carriers over his area.
Shepherd graded 85.6% for his final season, receiving All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors from the Associated Press before concluding his career by accepting an invitation to play in the 2015 Senior Bowl.