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When you play for a big-time program like Alabama, you’re an elite college player. But Alabama isn’t the NFL.
Crimson Tide offensive tackle Austin Shepherd has learned that this offseason. A two-year starter at right tackle for ’Bama, when it came time to play at the Senior Bowl, he shifted to guard.
It was an adjustment, but one he felt could benefit him as he fights for a roster spot in the NFL.
“It was just a little bit different than tackle,” Shepherd said. “As a tackle you’re more on an island, so as a guard you have to learn how to work with the center and the tackle. You have to work with both people on a lot of plays and pretty much the whole being by yourself part is different. There is always something you have to do now.”
Making the switch was no small challenge. Shepherd hasn’t played guard since his sophomore year of high school, but when he was being told different projections from different teams, he felt he needed to show some versatility to increase his draft stock.
“Half of the teams told me tackle, half told me guard, so I figured that since I have 27 games of film at tackle I would give a shot at guard,” Shepherd said. “I kind of came up with the idea. I heard so many people asking if I have ever played guard. Almost every team asked me if I played guard or center, so I told my agent this is what I am going to do, do you think it’s a good idea? He said, ‘Yeah it wouldn’t hurt at all, go ahead and do it.’”
One advantage Shepherd feels he has is coming from one of the most powerful college programs in the country. Nick Saban runs a pro-style offense that translates well to the NFL and Shepherd hopes that will help give him a leg up on the competition.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” Shepherd said.” I consider Coach Saban a pro coach at a pro program, so I think that’s a huge advantage because a lot of these guys play in spreads and all these other offenses, so being in a pro-style offense for five years I think helps a ton.”
Shepherd knows he’s part of a cattle call at O-line. Saturday alone, the Vikings drafted three college tackles that are being talked about at as potential guard candidates. But he isn’t focusing on anyone but himself because he is the only one that can control his football destiny.
“I am not worried about that,” Shepherd said. “I’m worried about myself and going in there and learning the playbook and getting better every single day. Everything will work out in the end.”