Former Marshall Maverick offensive lineman Matt Shepperd recalls the feeling of providing blocks leading to long runs.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “It’s almost like you see yourself achieving that goal in real time. You set yourself a goal and you work at getting there then you see the running back break loose and make a long run. It’s almost like seeing a goal being reached before your eyes. It’s a great feeling. It’s almost like you’re giving back.”
Setting goals and working hard to achieve that goal is something he learned on the gridiron as a player that he tries to use a coach.
“If you want something, you’ve got to go get it,” he said. “It’s not just going to happen for you. You have to put in the hard work and time and dedication to reach your goals. You can’t just lay out a goal and expect it to happen. You can’t do it alone. You have to learn to work with people to reach goals, so working together as a team and hard work pays off. I know it’s a cliché but it’s a true statement.”
Offensive linemen are often overlooked and underappreciated. That was something that bothered Shepperd in his early days of playing that the game but ultimately became what he loved most about the position.
“It did initially (bother him to not get the recognition) when I was really young and I didn’t understand, but after you learn and understand it, you kind of embrace it and that’s why actually why offensive line is so great. That’s why I wanted to coach it. It’s the most unselfish position on the field and you’ve got to embrace it.”
He eventually became an offensive line coach. After graduating from Marshall High School in 2009, Shepperd attended Louisiana Tech where he redshirted and spent five years as a kinesiology major.
“When I got to college, I really had no idea what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I guess it was maybe my second year in college and I kept in touch with some of my high school coaches. I thought I wanted to coach college football and I’ll never forget it – the day after the last game of the season, they had a calendar up on the wall and I saw they were going out for recruiting the very next day and I was like, ‘OK college ball isn’t for me. I’m going to need a little break. I want to coach high school ball. That’s where I had the most fun anyway.’”
Shepperd followed the footsteps of his two siblings into the coaching field. His brother Jarrod now coaches at Nacogdoches and his sister Alli is the head softball coach of the Lady Mavs.
“It was huge,” he said when asked what type of influence his brother had on him choosing the coaching route. “I looked up to my brother all the way through him graduating from high school. I was out there in practice with them when I was in junior high and they made their run to state. I was there with them. I was a water boy basically. I was at practice with them all the time when I was in middle school. I remember his position coach asking me, ‘Are you going to be as good as your brother?’ I always joked around and said, ‘I’m going to be better than him.’ He was a big influence on what I chose to do. I always wanted to do what my brother did and always wanted to meet what he did and hopefully surpass him but he always had a huge influence on what I was going to do.”
In fact, after college, he had an opportunity to coach with his brother.
“My brother was making a move from Rockport to a little town called Poteet, Texas, right outside of San Antonio,” he explained. “He was moving there to be the defensive coordinator. Then coming out of college, we had been talking right about the time I was about to graduate and he was talking about me getting a job there. Then I got hired on as a JV coach, an OC, and I coached basically every position I haven’t played, all the skill positions that first year. The next year I moved up to be a varsity coach. After that year I went to Huntsville with my brother and coached another two years with him. We coached offensive line together. From there I went to Port Neches Grove for a year and now I’m at Crandall High School, coaching the O-line and an assistant coach and the head coach for powerlifting.”
He added that Alli has also been a major influence.
“She was a big part of it too because when she was getting out of college, that was right about the time I was going into college and she was going into coaching so I had good resources to ask, ‘What’s the coaching life like? What’s it like behind the scenes?’” he said. “That kind of helped me make that decision too. That’s probably why it happened around the second year, honestly.”
Shepperd said it was also his siblings who he always looked up to as athletes.
“Obviously I had the teams to watch growing up – Cowboys and all that stuff and I always had the goal to be a Division I athlete so I watched a lot of college football, no particular team really,” he offered. “I watched all kinds of teams. If I had to pick a specific football player, it would probably be my brother growing up.
“My sister was a freak softball player in high school and college,” he continued. “Trying to match the success she had was also a goal I had as an athlete growing up. I watched her play softball since I was really young. She was an awesome athlete.”
Shepperd said he finds the coaching field to be more than rewarding.
“Seeing the light come on in a kid’s eyes when they finally get it and they reach their goals,” he said when asked what the most rewarding part is. “I haven’t been in it very long but to see a kid graduate and surpass what he wanted to be as an athlete and being so grateful for it, it’s a really rewarding feeling.”
He tries to keep up with Marshall sports as he still has family in the town.
“That small-town vibe in Marshall is awesome and obviously, I miss the Friday night lights but family most of all is what I miss about it,” he said.