It’s hard to get a better compliment than to be compared to Aaron Donald but that happened yesterday with Derrick Shepard.
The sophomore defensive tackle from Dayton, Ohio received an offer from Pitt defensive coordinator Randy Bates, who brought up Donald in their conversation.
“My coach at school is good friends with Coach Bates at Pitt and he called me yesterday and told me to give Coach Bates a call,” Shepard told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I called him and he told me that when he watches my tape that with the way I get off the snap so quickly that I really remind him of a taller Aaron Donald. That’s what he compared my film and that’s all he saw was Aaron Donald but taller. Hearing something like that was very humbling.”
The offer was important to Shepard (6’3″, 310) because it was his first one from a Power 5 program, with his other two offers coming from Cincinnati and Toledo. Shepard admits that while it’s a relief to get that first big one, he knows it’s no time to relax.
“Getting that offer makes me more humble because I know that I have to keep working really hard to keep getting better. They’re now looking for me to improve and get better and I can’t slack off since I got the offer from them.”
“I’ll admit that getting that offer is also a relief because it validates to me that all the hard work I put in is paying off and getting noticed,” said Shepard.
Shepard tells PSN that the work he’s put in has allowed him to become a great run stopper and someone that is powerful yet very quick coming off the ball.
“The power that I have allows me to control the offensive lineman that’s blocking me and allows me to get to the ball and make a play.”
Getting back to Donald, while talking with Shepard, another recruiting pitch that Bates was making and educating Shepard on was the success the Pitt program has at getting players like Donald and others to the NFL.
“The first time I talked to Coach Bates a few weeks ago, he named a bunch of players that came through Pitt and then went on to be good in the NFL,” said Shepard. “When I hear that, in my head I’m thinking, if they did that for those players and improved their skills to get them there, they can do the same thing for me.”
Aside from his offers from Pitt, Cincinnati and Toledo, Shepard tells me that he’s hearing and receiving interest from Purdue, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa State West Virginia and Indiana.