Cover photo from hudl.com The season didn’t start out as the Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons wanted. They started the season 0-2. The start of Falcons’ defensive back/linebacker Gerald Shepherd‘s season didn’t start as well as he hoped either. As the…
Cover photo from hudl.com
The season didn’t start out as the Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons wanted. They started the season 0-2. The start of Falcons’ defensive back/linebacker Gerald Shepherd‘s season didn’t start as well as he hoped either. As the season went on, both Shepherd’s and the team’s fortunes improved. Although they would ultimately fall in the first round of the 6A playoffs – from where they started to where they ended player and team – had to call the 2018 football season a success.
“We started out kind of rocky,” Shepherd admitted. “By the third game, we made some improvements – especially on defense. It is unfortunate that we went out in the first round, but three of our losses were one score or less. I think it was a good season for Armstrong. We were working hard. I enjoyed the year.”
Shepherd started the on the defensive side of the ball, but his role would change during the year.
“I started out as a safety. I was moved to outside linebacker after three games. Up until this year that is where I would normally play. Depending on the defensive call, sometimes I would drop back into the safety spot, but I was mainly an outside linebacker.”
When Shepherd looks back at the season, he sees two different players, and in a way, two different people.
“In the beginning, I felt like this was my last year, and I have to make every play. In the first game, I felt like I had to make the highlight reel play. The first play of the season I made a huge hit and that night I just kept going for the big play and big hit. It ended up costing us some big plays. As the season went on, I calmed down and just played football. I matured as a football player throughout the season, and it showed.”
The 6’0″ 172-pound senior was new to the safety position but had enough time to adjust to his early season assignments.
“I was able to work at safety in the offseason, so I was able to make my mistakes when it didn’t count. Once the season started, I was more comfortable with the position.”
Shepherd – regardless of safety or outside linebacker – would line up on the field side of the formation. The senior feels his aggressiveness and tackling abilities are his strengths, but football had taught him as many skills on the field as off.
“Football has taught me how to be a leader, how to be disciplined, and has taught me character as well.”
This winter Shepherd – who will be playing in the All-Star game this weekend – has been focusing on getting stronger by working in the weight room. In the spring he will be running some combination of sprints as well as competing in the high jump for the track team. He will also focus on some football-specific skills.
“I need to work on reading the ball,” Shepherd admitted. “I could have had more interceptions this year if I had read the ball better. I need to still work on not going for the big hit all the time. I got better at that this year, but in college, there are going to be plays where I think I can make the big hit, but I will need to stay disciplined.”
Although his recruitment started slowly during his junior year, Shephard has plenty of options to play next season. He currently has seven offers: Mankato, Concordia-St. Paul, Minnesota-Crookston, University of Sioux Falls, Jamestown, University of Mary and St. Cloud State.
“They like that I am aggressive,” Shepherd said. “The coaches like my size – I am a lanky defensive back. They like my ability to make open-field tackles. They like that I am putting myself out there to make the play both against the pass and the run.”
While recruiting has been a great experience for Shepherd, it also has come with its share of stress.
“Recruiting kind of got overwhelming,” Shepherd admitted. “I have built a lot of relationships with a lot of coaches. That is a stressful part. I can only choose one school. Building these relationships is hard because I will have to tell people thank you for everything, but I am not going to your school.”
Recruiting has also put some additional stress into his off the field life.
“I am the first person in my family to get an athletic scholarship,” Shepherd – who is being recruited as both a safety and corner – said. “People are always asking me where I am going to go and what my top three schools are. I can’t just choose three right now. Recruiting has been a great time, but it is complicated as well.”
Recruiting might have started slowly and had its ups and downs for Gerald Shepherd, but like his senior season, it appears to be getting better each week.