Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment of an occasional series. Please send topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jarrod Shepperd was looking forward to starting his college football career at Tarleton State University before an injury in fall camp put those plans on hold. That’s when he became interested in coaching.
“There was nobody on campus yet,” Shepperd said. “It was just the athletes. I think volleyball was doing two-a-days and football was doing two-a-days. I was like four hours from home, on crutches and basically going back and forth from the training room.
“I was really missing being out there practicing. It was the first season I’ve ever had to sit out. I’ve missed a game or so for injuries but it was the first season that I’ve ever had to sit out and I decided I was going to have a hard time stepping away from the game. I was going to try to be as involved with it as much as I could and I just knew it was going to have to be from a different aspect and coaching was a great way to stay involved in the game that I really loved.”
Shepperd graduated from Marshall High School in 2005 where he played offensive tackle. During his senior year, he helped guide the Mavericks to a state championship where they fell to Ennis in a 23-21 final.
“It was unbelievable,” he said of the experience. “There was a lot going on. The finish of it was pretty crazy too. We had some bad bounces that we didn’t quite come back from but it was a close game and a lot of fun.”
That state championship game was held at Texas Stadium – then home to the Dallas Cowboys. Just this past postseason, Shepperd had a chance to coach AT&T Stadium — where the Cowboys play their games and The Star – the Cowboys’ practice facilities in Frisco, as an offensive line coach at Huntsville, the team that knocked Marshall out of the playoffs.
“It was pretty crazy because I still have family that’s in the (Marshall) district,” Shepperd My mom works for the school district. My sister works for the school district. The guy I was working for in Huntsville was my head coach in high school – Rodney Southern.
“Aside from that, there were maybe three or four other guys on the staff who were from Marshall. One I played with, one who I played with his older brother who’s coaching at ETBU now. It brought back a lot of memories. It was pretty exciting.
“It was in an excellent venue. Not a lot of people get a chance to play at a place like The Star, or Texas Stadium, or AT&T Stadium. So whenever you get an opportunity to compete in something that intense at a place like that, if you take some time to soak it all in, it’s a lot of fun, really exciting.”
Shepperd will be returning to the same athletic district as Marshall this season when he coaches the offensive line at Nacogdoches High School.
“I had a mutual friend, Darren Allman, who took the job (athletic director and head football coach) and contacted me through a mutual friend and it seemed like a really good opportunity for my family,” he explained. “It was a little bit closer to home. It was a good place with some good people who are trying to turn them around and get them going in the right direction.”
Shepperd majored in kinesiology at Tarleton State and eventually became the first of three siblings to go into the coaching field. His sister Alli is the head softball coach of the Lady Mavs and his brother Matt is an assistant football coach at Crandall High School.
“Our parents were extremely involved in everything we were doing,” he said when asked how he and his two siblings chose the same field. “When we were younger, for me, my brother and sister, it was always baseball and softball. We were traveling around to tournaments and things like that. I guess as me and my brother got older, our build was geared a little bit more toward football.
“We had great coaches involved in our lives. They did a great job of instilling the right values. For me, that’s probably how we all ended up doing the same profession. We had some good people who had a positive influence on us.”
He added he and his siblings give each other advice as to how to go about different situations.
“We’re always bouncing ideas off each other,” he said. “For me and my brother, it’s always geared more toward football. When me and my sister talk, a lot of the time, it’s about dealing with kids or parents or administrative things in the classroom, that type of stuff.
“We’re visiting about things like that on a pretty regular basis. Me and my brother’s conversations, we get into a little bit more Xs and Os.
“It’s pretty special,” he continued. “Me and my brother worked together for four years before he went his own direction. The year that we were separated, not coaching together, we played each other in pre-district. It was pretty crazy. At our NRG game when Marshall played, my school played first. Marshall played next and then my brother’s team played third.”
All in all, Shepperd is pleased with the career choice he made.
“I think when a kid worked really hard to obtain a goal, he finally sees the fruits of his labor, it clicks and they’re bought into what you’re selling, you can tell when it’s 100 percent, I think that’s probably the most rewarding thing whenever they figure it out,” Shepperd said.
“I was 16, 17 years old and there were a lot of things on my mind. Looking back, you’re not as focused as you’d like to be. So whenever that all clicks, you can point them in the right direction and it’s pretty rewarding when you reach your goals together.”