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Oklahoma football: Sterling Shepard's biggest fan isn't crazy about his new role in the return game

Scary memories from Oct. 30, 1988 — when she watched her husband Derrick knocked unconscious during a kick return — are why Cheri Shepard is uneasy about her son Sterling taking over as Oklahoma’s punt returner.
by Jason Kersey Published: September 1, 2014


photo - Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Louisiana Tech cornerback Bryson Abraham (15) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Louisiana Tech cornerback Bryson Abraham (15) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORMAN — Cheri Shepard had only been married a few months when she sat in Houston’s Astrodome on Oct. 30, 1988, watching her husband Derrick play for the Washington Redskins in a Sunday night football game.

Midway through the second quarter that night, Derrick Shepard fielded a kickoff and sustained a brutal blow from the Houston Oilers’ Eugene Seale that knocked Shepard unconscious.

“He was just lying there,” Cheri Shepard remembered. “He wasn’t moving.

“I kept thinking, ‘Is he paralyzed?’ There were no cell phones then, so I didn’t find out how he was doing until a lot later that night.”

Scary memories from that night are why Cheri isn’t wild about her son Sterling’s newest role on Oklahoma’s football team. The junior wideout and Heritage Hall product took over as the Sooners’ punt returner this fall.

“My mom tells me all the time she hates that I’m doing punt return,” Sterling Shepard said. Cheri found out that Sterling would return punts several months ago, and while she’s never been the type of parent to interfere, the whole thing has definitely made her uneasy.

Sterling returned punts and kicks in high school, but that never really bothered his mom. After all, facing the likes of Casady and Kingfisher isn’t the same as returning punts against Tennessee and Texas.

Cheri spent the days and weeks before Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana Tech praying for Sterling’s safety and asking everyone she knows to do the same.

After all, Sterling has already suffered one concussion since becoming a Sooner.

Last November in Waco, Texas, Shepard caught a pass coming across the middle, turned upfield and was met by Baylor defender K.J. Morton, whose high hit knocked Shepard out of the game.

Cheri rushed from the stands onto the sideline and stood nearby while doctors asked Shepard to repeat some numbers backward. His mom didn’t hear the “backward” part, and assumed he was in much worse shape than he was.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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