Michael Vick singled out Russell Shepard on Saturday, saying that out of all the young receivers on the roster, he is the one that has stood out the most.
Little did Vick know how much that would mean to the undrafted rookie out of LSU. Shepard played quarterback through high school. Guess who he tried to emulate on the field?
“My whole persona and way I played the football game was to be like Michael Vick,” said the Texas native following Sunday’s practice at the Linc. ”For my idol, my favorite player of all time, my mentor to say some good things about me, words can’t explain the way that makes me feel.”
Shepard was actually recruited as a quarterback out of Cypress Ridge High School by Chip Kelly, but ultimately turned down Oregon to attend LSU. There he was tried out at QB, running back, and even safety, he said, but ultimately settled in at receiver. Still, he only totaled 20 catches over the final two seasons of his collegiate career.
“The receiver position I was very new to, so it took me a year or two to really get acclimated and used to playing it,” he said. “From catching the football to running routes. When I really started to catch my rhythm it was towards the back end of my senior year.”
According to Shepard, most NFL teams were looking at him as a defensive back. Kelly saw him as a receiver.
So far, Shepard looks the part. He has caught most of the balls thrown in his direction and has provided a couple highlights in the early stages of training camp, including a pretty grab on a deep ball from his idol during Saturday’s practice.
It appears that the extra work he is putting in is paying off. Taking his cues from Jason Avant, Shepard stays after practice each day to catch balls out of the jugs machine. He tries to catch an additional 100 balls every day. Though he’ll have to cut it short for a meeting on occasion, he does no less than 50.
Shepard’s prospects of making the team improved when Jeremy Maclin went down with a torn ACL.
“I look at it as, one of our guys went down, a mentor of mine, and I look forward to making him proud,” said the 6-1, 195-pound wideout. “Making him proud is being able to fill in until he comes back, catching footballs, being able to make plays. My thing is, I want to make Jeremy proud, and being able to make plays is the way I’ll do that.”
Shepard has been lining up primarily in the slot, but saw his first action on the outside on Sunday.
He’ll have a chance over the next several weeks to make his case for why the Eagles should keep him around. If he succeeds? Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to catch a pass from Vick in a regular season game.
Does Vick know he grew up idolizing him?
“I don’t know. I’ve never told him. I kind of get a little shy saying stuff life that,” said Shepard. “But at the same time, I told him to check out my quarterback highlights.”
Those highlights can be found below, Mike.
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