Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
FAIRHOPE, Ala. – Kelvin Sheppard’s yellow helmet stood out amongst the myriad of other helmets during the opening day of Senior Bowl practice, just like his No. 11 jersey was easy to identify for much of his final two seasons in Baton Rouge.
Why? He was quick at the snap and almost always around the ball.
Making this fact more impressive is that he played at a heavier weight and an inch short than his listed height; Sheppard was measured at 6-foot-2 and a 1/8 and 250 pounds during Monday’s weigh in at the all-star game.
Ahead of Saturday’s game but during the most important part of the week, the practices, Sheppard already was doing what set he out to do.
“Come out and show off all my abilities and at the same time, be able to retain the information that’s taught to me this week,” Sheppard said. “I’m getting coached by a very good coaching staff that’s actively coaching NFL-caliber athletes. They know what to expect out of an NFL quality player.”
Sheppard started all 13 games for LSU this past season, helping LSU to an 11-2 record and a top 10 final ranking. He earned first team All-SEC honors for the season and was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his play in LSU’s 24-21 win over Alabama.
It was that Alabama game that Sheppard might remember most about his senior season.
He finished with 10 tackles, a half-sack and two huge turnovers – an interception of Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and a fumble recovery – that helped turned the tide of the game.
“He was the heart and soul of that defense,” said McElroy, also in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, about Sheppard. “We’ve kind of been jawing back and forth. He intercepted me during the game. We had some fun with that.”
Certainly McElroy knows talent when he sees it.
“Just getting to know him personally, I think he’s going to have a lot of success in the league and I look forward to following (him) ...,” McElroy said.
Sheppard is trying to stand out amongst some of the top senior linebackers in the country. Joining him on the South squad are Auburn’s Josh Bynes, N.C. State’s Nate Irving, Miami’s Colin McCarthy, Texas A&M’s Von Miller and Mississippi State’s Chris White and K.J. Wright.
But looking at his career, it’s not hard to imagine him finding a way to finish above the rest.
He finished with 311 total tackles, including a team-high 116 tackles as a senior and a team-leading 110 stops as a junior. He had 11 tackles for a loss in his final season in Baton Rouge and 26 total tackles for a loss.
Sheppard had seven pass breakups, three quarterback hits, two interceptions, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
He started 30 of 53 career games in the LSU uniform.
“He’s smart,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “He’s tough. I like him. I like him a lot.”
McShay sees Sheppard as a mid-round steal and his ability to find the football sets him apart.
“He looked the part today,” McShay said. “He’s well put together. He looks like he’s ready to go.”