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Oklahoma football: Poised to carry on the Shepard Sooner lineage

STERLING SHEPARD — His father and two uncles played football for the University of Oklahoma. On the brink of National Signing Day, former Sooner quarterback Darrell Shepard says his nephew is “going to be a good one.”
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 30, 2012

Darrell Shepard is proud to call himself an Oklahoma alum, a former Sooner quarterback and part of a crimson-and-cream family legacy.

But these days, he's every bit as proud of another title.

Sterling's uncle.

Sterling Shepard will extend his family's Sooner lineage later this week when he signs with OU. The Heritage Hall standout will follow in the footsteps of three Shepards who went before him — his father, Derrick; his uncle Woodie; and his uncle Darrell.

“I'm really proud of Sterling,” Darrell said via telephone from his home in Michigan. “I know there's a lot of pressure there trying to live up to the name, and I think he has done that real well.”

No doubt about that. This past season, the wide receiver had 73 catches for 1,243 yards and 17 touchdowns. His big-play ability stunned opponents, wowed fans and earned Little-All City Offensive Player of the Year honors.

He even showed some serious grit. In Heritage Hall's state semifinal loss to Cascia Hall, Shepard played on a severely injured hamstring — and still caught a touchdown pass and picked off a pass.

Even with all the highlights and all of the accolades, those aren't the things that make Sterling's uncle proudest.

“I can't really name just one thing,” Darrell said. “I'm proud of him in so many ways.”

Topping the list, though, is the maturity that Sterling has shown despite growing up without his dad. Derrick Shepard had just started a new assistant coaching job at Wyoming and was beginning to climb the coaching ranks when he suffered a heart attack and died. He was only 35 years old.

His death rocked the entire family, but no one was more shaken than 6-year-old Sterling, who would wail for hours on end.

He became the man of the house, a protector for his mom and two sisters.

“For him to stay focused and achieve the things he has achieved in sports — and I know it hasn't been easy — that tells you something about him,” Darrell said. “He is a good kid.”

Sterling hasn't been without male role models, though. Prime among them are his uncles. He even invited Uncle Darrell to come on his official visit to OU.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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