NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Sterling Shepard has quite the Oklahoma football pedigree: son of a beloved star receiver for the Sooners who died just as his coaching career was starting to take off.
It wasn't that heritage or his considerable receiving skills that earned the sophomore wide receiver from Oklahoma City more playing time this season for No. 11 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12 Conference), which will host TCU (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday.
It was his willingness to block when his number wasn't called.
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel called Shepard's performance in a 35-21 win at Notre Dame last Saturday "as complete a game at the wide receiver position as we've had played around here in a long time."
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Shepard had five catches for 84 yards, including a critical 54-yard fourth-quarter touchdown reception, and joined fellow receiver Jalen Saunders in delivering numerous blocks that allowed Oklahoma ball carriers to gain more yards.
"He was just outstanding," coach Bob Stoops said of Shepard. "What you don't see, unless you go back and watch the game again, is you should see the way he played without the football in this game. It's really fun to watch. The guy was blocking everywhere. Hustling. That's what I'm most proud of. He was outstanding when he didn't have the ball."
Shepard came from the same high school, Heritage Hall, that produced Wes Welker, and one of his high school teammates was current Stanford running back Barry Sanders Jr. Shepard's father, Derrick Shepard, played for the Sooners from 1983-1986 — helping the Sooners win the 1985 national title — and played in the NFL for five seasons, winning a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins in 1987.
He died from a heart attack in August 1999, one month into a new job as an assistant coach at Wyoming.
Sterling Shepard essentially grew up around the Oklahoma program and after he signed with the Sooners, he chose the same No. 3 that his father had worn. As a freshman, he showed flashes of promise, catching 45 passes for 621 yards and three touchdowns in limited appearances.
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