Sterling Shepard is the unsung hero of the New York Giants’ wide receiving dynamic duo. At 24 years old, in his 3rd season out of Oklahoma, Sterling is as promising a player as one might want. Over 3 seasons, he has caught 168 passes for a total of 1,987 yards. He has 13 career touchdowns. This year he’s already pulled in 44 catches and 3 touchdowns. He has stepped up when his dynamic duo superstar, Odell Beckham Jr., has not. And Shepard has always had his back.
Beckham is in his 5th season in the league. He has caught 382 passes for a total of 5,356 yards and 43 touchdowns. When he is hot he’s one of the best in the league. When he’s off, he is fiery.
When Beckham won his record-breaking contract, Sterling Shepard, celebrated with him. Beckham now makes 90 million dollars over 5 years. That’s almost 20 million a year. Shepard makes just under 6 million over 4 years. That’s about 1.5 million a year. Beckham is a better player than Shepard. And contracts rarely represent true value. But that’s a big difference.
When asked about Beckham’s passionate speeches to the team, calling them out on their play and demanding that they step up to the kind of game they all know they can play, Shepard stood by Odell’s words. In a locker room interview, Shepard said, “Everybody felt it. It was genuine. Things get taken out of context sometimes.”
As wingmen go, Sterling Shepard is proving to be one of the best to a superstar receiver who is often in the limelight. Shepard lives in Odell’s shadow. But he’s not overshadowed y the Giants’ larger-than-life receiver. Number 13 may have the salary and the highlight reel to back up his play. But Shepard is steadily there, steadily there, steadily there.
Just as Sterling’s father was there for his son until he wasn’t.
Sterling Shepard’s father, Derrick, was a walk-on star for the Oklahoma Sooner’s football team. he was undersized but became the team captain. He played on the 1985 Sooner National Championship team, then played for five years in the NFL with Dallas and Washington, and playing on a Superbowl winning team. Derrick returned to Oklahoma as a graduate assistant and a coach. He gained recognition for his coaching skills. He was a natural. Derrick Shepard eventually took a full-time position at the University of Wyoming.
A couple of weeks into the job, Derrick died of sudden heart failure at the age of 35. Sterling was 6.
The Shepard family was devastated. Ever since Sterling was included as part of the Sooner home. He was included in their games and practices until about the age of 14. In high school, Sterling Shepard started standing out on his own merit, gaining the attention of several college football programs around the country. He wore the same number that his father wore – number 3. Eventually, Shepard played for his Dad’s Alma mater.
Sterling Shepard may not yet be making the money he deserves, but perhaps he’s playing for something more important than money. His mother believes that, even though Sterling’s father, Derrick, never got to see his son play football, he would be so proud of him. Sterling agrees, saying “to see what point I’m at now [in my career as a football player], I don’t think he could help but be happy.”
We’re sure he is. Not just for the player his son, Sterling Shepard, is, but for the man, he is as well.
What price can you put on that?
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a novelist, screenwriter, educator, and father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and optioned screenplays, articles, and this blog.