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Sheppard hopes for big bowl in ’09

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Sheppard hopes for big bowl in ’09

Coming into the 2009 season, the Razorbacks returned several starters from last year. On defense, especially, the Hogs are stacked with returning talent and perhaps the most recognized individual is Malcolm Sheppard. One of the few seniors and a defensive leader for head coach Bobby Petrino, Sheppard does not shy away from the pressure and hopes he can carry over in the next phase of life after college. “It’s been good for me so far this year,” said Sheppard. “I’ve learned how to not only be vocal, but also to lead by example on the field when it comes to playing big SEC schools like Georgia and Florida and the guys respond to that really well.”

Sheppard, a 6-2 senior from Bainbridge, Georgia, grew up always loving football. He says, as a kid, he would envision himself playing in the NFL and making a living from playing the game that he loves, the same dream that probably goes through every kid’s mind at least once in their lives. “Growing up, I was typical American young kid and was around football just about every day,” Sheppard said. “I grew up in a neighborhood that had probably 30 kids that were the same age and we would have big football games all the time. The game of football is very important to me.” Of those friends that Sheppard played with as a young kid, Razorback teammate Ray Dominguez has been able to play alongside the defensive-end throughout high school and into college. As seniors, both Sheppard and Dominguez helped their high school to a playoff birth, an experience that Sheppard is glad to continue throughout his college career.“Its fun getting to play with Ray [Dominguez] again in college,” Sheppard said. “We were a great group of guys as seniors in high school, but my relationship with Ray has grown a lot over the past few years and he’s a great guy to be around. Getting to play with him for four more years has really made my time here fun.”

Coming out of high school, Sheppard was highly recruited by big schools such as South Carolina, Southern Miss, South Florida, and UCF, but going a long way from home was not a problem for Sheppard as he chose Arkansas. “It was really the whole coaching staff that brought me here,” the Georgia native said. “The coaches made me feel like I had known them for a long time. I’ve just felt at home in Arkansas.” As he prepared to begin his freshman season for the Razorbacks, Sheppard quickly developed into a big contributor for the defensive front and gained a lot of playing time in his first season. Seeing action in all 14 games, he worked his way into the second-string spot at right defensive end and acquired valuable experience for the years to come. “It was exciting,” he says. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to get to play my first year when former Razorback Jamaal Anderson was here and I thought I would be red-shirted. I just worked and was able to be part of a Top-10 team at one point and it was a fun year.”

Working hard is something that Sheppard takes a lot of pride in when it comes to the daily grind of being a major-college football player. A work ethic that he says had to be acquired during his transition from high school to college. “The biggest difference between high school and college is the time that goes into preparing for a college football game,” Sheppard said. “In high school, you would go out and practice for three hours and that was it. When you get to college, it’s that and then some more. Along with practice you watch game film and making sure you know the game plan for each opponent. It’s definitely tough, but it’s just like in the classroom, you get used to the work.” According to Sheppard, having a big work load and developing a good work ethic and business-first attitude is something that he credits to his head coach. He says that Petrino instilled those characteristics in him as a player and a person during his first year. “I think I needed something like that in my life,” Sheppard said. “To just come in and put everything back at ground-zero. That’s how Petrino is. He demands perfection and wants 110 percent. He’s not going to accept anything less. He’s a great guy and definitely smart about football.”

As Sheppard continues his final season in the Razorback red, he doesn’t really have any personal goals set for himself, other than help the team to a winning season and a big bowl berth. Whether it’s setting a good example for the defense or giving 110 percent and staying all-business for Coach Petrino, it’s hard to dispel the ideas and hopes of the Razorbacks having a very successful year with Sheppard captaining the defensive side of the ball. “I just want to be remembered by the players I played with and the guys I saw every day,” Sheppard said. “I want them to remember me in a positive way and as a guy that was 100 percent business and a good friend.”



Sports Category : Football