The Good Shepard: Bucs special-teamer making larger impact

Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Shepard celebrates his touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals.

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Over the course of his football career, Russell Shepard has been a man without a country. He was a quarterback in high school. At Louisiana State, he converted to running back and wide receiver. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him as an undrafted free agent to play defensive back, but Shepard made the roster for his efforts on special teams.

“It has brought me my whole NFL career to this point,” admitted Shepard. “I came in as a guy that was kind of raw at the position. A lot of NFL teams didn’t know which position I would play.”

“Special teams gave me the opportunity to find my niche, find what I do good in this league,” Shepard explained. “It has continued to keep growing and I’m just trying to do my part to make a play for this team.”

On Monday night, Shepard made the biggest play of his NFL career. On 3rd and 20, Mike Glennon heaved up a deep pass to Shepard, who made a basket catch over his shoulder to score his first professional touchdown.

“Coach did a great job calling the play. I was just out there trying to do my job,” said Shepard with a smile. “That’s one thing we preach on the offensive side: do your job and good things will happen.”

Shepard made two catches for 44 yards, including his touchdown catch. Now head coach Lovie Smith wants to see more.

“Right now you can make a case for Russell Shepard being in a position to get some wide receiver reps as the season rolls along,” declared Smith.

“When I got here, hey, Russell Shepard is a great special teams player. Plays hard every down. We saw that right away, and I saw that right away, but normally if you’re good there and you give players more reps, they show you that they can get the job done at other positions too. That’s what he has done.”

Shepard is competing for a roster spot against a slew of young and skilled wide receivers. By next week, he’ll know whether or not he has done enough to make the team.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “The game which we play… So many people dream of playing. I’ll do anything I can to keep the dream alive.”

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