In three days, you and I will be watching the Oklahoma Sooners finally get the 2018 season underway! For today’s topic in our daily Countdown to Kickoff series, we’ve got a special one in store for you.
At Oklahoma, the Sooners are a family, and sometimes that’s also in the literal sense of the word. Derrick Shepard did big things in Norman, and he passed on his abilities to his son, Sterling. Together, they make up arguably the greatest father and son combo in OU Athletics history.
Let’s start things off with Sterling’s dad, Derrick Shepard.
Derrick Shepard was a native of Odessa, Texas, and in high school, he played QB in a wishbone offense. His talent as a runner was undeniable. He ran with balance, creativity, and agility. While he wasn’t offered a scholarship right away, he was confident in what he could do on the field, so he chose to walk on at Oklahoma in 1983. As a freshman, his 73-yard Bedlam TD sparked a furious comeback victory over Oklahoma State — the game in which the term “Sooner Magic” was was born.
For four seasons, Shepard played an integral role in the Sooners’ vaunted offense, and was a key contributor during Oklahoma’s national title winning season in 1985. Even though this was an era when running the ball was the first, second and third option, Shepard provided a spark on the outside, and it was a lot more than a wrinkle.
By the end of his collegiate career, Shepard amassed 1,221 yards and eight touchdowns on 75 catches. Though he went undrafted in the 1987 NFL Draft, he managed to carve out a solid five-year pro career with Washington, New Orleans and Dallas.
Following his retirement, he went back to the college level to pursue a career in coaching. Tragically, shortly after he became the wide receivers coach at Wyoming in 1999, he suffered a heart attack, passing away at the young age of 35. Before he passed, however, he was able to start a family, which included a son by the name of Sterling.
Fast-forward in time to 2012 when Derrick’s son, Sterling Shepard, grew into a top-flight college football prospect coming out of Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City. Though he was only six years old when he lost his father, he showed many of the same skills and innate traits that his pops was known for.
Sterling is living proof that what makes a player great is not always about training. Sometimes it’s as simple as a person being born with those gifts, and there’s no doubt about how he inherited his elite ability (not to say that Sterling hasn’t worked his ass off).
From 2012 to 2015, Shepard leapt over would-be tacklers and burned defensive backs down the field on the regular. His hands were some of the best to come through Oklahoma, and his route running was that of a seasoned professional. With No. 3 on the field, the Sooners were always a threat to score.
Before his final home game as a Sooner in 2015, Brian Bosworth presented Sterling with a gift on Oklahoma’s Senior Night. The Boz was a teammate of Shepard’s father, so he also shared a special connection with the Shepard family.
The emotion you saw from Shepard in that video is the emotion he played with each and every game. He was one of the most passionate players on the team, and he had a lot of fun playing in front of his loved ones.
For his career, Shepard accumulated some staggering numbers. He finished with 233 receptions for 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns. In 2015, he was named a First-Team All-American by ESPN, and a Second-Team All-American by CBS Sports and USA Today.
The New York Giants selected Sterling Shepard in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s currently entering his third season with the G-Men, where he’s been one of the team’s leading producers.
Now let’s take a look at some other Sooners who sported the number 3!
Safety Darrol Ray
From 1976 to 1979, Darrol Ray was a dynamic playmaker on Oklahoma’s defense, both by intercepting passes and forcing fumbles. Interestingly enough, he also played punter. He was picked by the New York Jets in the second round of the 1980 NFL Draft, where he played five productive seasons. Today, he owns a fabulous restaurant, Ray’s Smokehouse BBQ, in Norman.
WR Josh Norman
Aside from having an ultra-fitting last name, Josh Norman had a very solid Sooner career from 1998 to 2001. Originally from Midland, Texas, Norman’s opportunities on offense increased each year he was in the program. The former running back was a big, strong target at receiver who often came up clutch. For his career, he finished with 1,157 yards from scrimmage and nine total TDs.
Safety Reggie Smith
Edmond, Okla. native Reggie Smith had game-changing ability. From ‘05 to ‘07, he terrorized Big 12 offenses with big hits and momentous picks. Smith was also an electric returner on punts and kickoffs. In three seasons, he recorded 12.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, and scored by way of punt, interception, and fumble returns.
In the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected Smith with the 75th overall pick. He played in the Bay Area for four seasons.
Follow Crimson & Cream Machine on Twitter!