Leaving a mark: Sterling Shepard following in his father’s footsteps

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MIAMI, Fla. – As the final games of seniors’ careers come to an end, many of those players are looking back at the things they have accomplished.

Sterling Shepard is one of those seniors.

No. 3 has destroyed defenses with his quick feet and his ability to catch nearly everything that comes his way.

During the game against TCU, the Sooner faithful were saying goodbye to 14 seniors who will never take Owen field again.

As Sterling Shepard’s name was called, the crowd erupted in cheers.

However, his biggest surprise was yet to come.

Brian Bosworth walked up to Shepard and his family with a program in hand.

On the cover was Derrick Shepard, Sterling’s father.

Derrick Shepard played wide receiver and punt returner for the Sooners from 1983 to 1986. He played a pivotal role on the 1985 national championship team.

Tragically, Derrick died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 35. Sterling was only 6-years-old.

While his father was never able to watch him play the sport he loved, Sterling continued to pursue his dream of following in his father’s footsteps.

On senior night, he was given a program that was signed by the entire 1985 championship team, and featured his father on the cover.

“We love you. We love your father and we’re so proud of what you’ve done for us and the university. He stood up proud for us, so we’re going to stand up proud for you,” Bosworth said as Shepard broke down into tears.

At the time, he had no idea exactly how closely he would follow his father’s footsteps.

Shepard was recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, ahead of the Orange Bowl.

It was a game he always dreamed of playing.

“My mom was always praying that I would make it to the Orange Bowl. You know, my dad played in it, so it was definitely something I wanted to do and we’re here now,” Shepard said. “I mean, that’s the biggest game I’ve ever heard about. That, and  I think he made some play at Okie State. But other than that, I hear about the national championship. I mean, that’s what sticks with everyone.”

Now, Shepard has the opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl and win a national championship.

“It motivates you a lot. My mom gave me his national championship ring for graduation, so that  gave me a little bit of extra motivation, just getting to see that ring, and knowing that we’re two games away from designing our own,” he said.

Throughout his career with OU, Shepard has 26 touchdowns and 3,395 yards, making him one of the school’s all-time leaders.

Now, the Sooners will need his skills when they take on Clemson on Dec. 31 in the Orange Bowl.

Clemson says Shepard will be on their radar when they take the field on Thursday.

“He’s one of the big keys to their offense, but we want to stop their entire offense. We have great players, have a great quarterback, great running back, so we just want to go out there and pretty much stop all they can do, including Sterling Shepard, but he’s such an explosive player that you cannot… he can’t go unnoticed on film,” said Cordea Tankersley, Clemson cornerback.