JaMarcus Shephard’s enthusiasm transcends time.
It’s November 13, 2004, and a 21-year-old Shephard is literally bouncing off the floor, spurting excitedly like a fire hose into football mats.
His teammates parade around Little Giant Stadium in Crawfordsville, Indiana, happily ringing the Monon Bell – a 300-pound engine bell awarded to the annual winner between DePauw University and Wabash College.
It is the main rivalry in Division III football, with 127 meetings between 1890 and 2021.
And after three straight DePauw losses, Shephard brings the bell home.
“Let’s get back to the field,” says an unidentified game announcer, introducing an interview with a human espresso. “JaMarcus Shephard is alongside our very own Jim Barber. Jim? »
Cut to the field, where Shephard – the DePauw Tigers senior wide receiver – cradles a football and floats like an untied buoy, radiating rocket fuel.
“He was leading the cheers AND the singing,” Barber, the secondary reporter, informs Shephard, prompting a cry – ahhhhhhasss okay! – contrary to anything said before or since. “How about coming out as a senior with the bell?
“Oh man, that’s all you can ask for,” Shephard said, utterly uninterested, despite only passing twice for 10 yards in the Tigers’ 14-7 win. “Three years of losing the bell and finally you have the opportunity to win it in your final year? You can’t come out better than that.
“I kept saying to players, ‘Man, no matter what you’ve done in your career, if you don’t go out with the bell at least once, then you haven’t done anything at DePauw University. .
JaMarcus Shephard has done his part. In a stellar four-year career, the 6-foot, 200-pound wide receiver from Fort Wayne, Indiana, finished first in school history in early career return yards (1,430), second in all-purpose yards (3,997), third in receiving (168) and fourth in receiving yards (2,382).
A double All-American, he captained the football team and track team, earned a degree in sports medicine, and also joined the Men of Excellence, Cross-Cultural Alliance, and Student Advisory Board organizations. by DePauw.
Long before arriving as UW’s associate head coach this offseason, Shephard was already the consummate captain.
His enthusiasm was boundless.
It is November 16, 2019 and Bill Lynch is about to retire. After seven seasons in his second stint as DePauw’s head coach, the 65-year-old Hoosier has just one game left.
The Monon Bell waves.
It rings for you.
In the moments before kick-off, Lynch turns a corner in the bowels of Blackstock Stadium and sees a familiar face. Shephard — his former student, now in his second season as Purdue’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach — drove 55 miles south from West Lafayette to Greencastle, Indiana, the Boilermakers’ bye week.
So naturally, Lynch offers a hug…and asks for a favor.
“I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you talk to the team? So we went into the locker room, and he just walked away,” Lynch said, recalling the speech that preceded a 17-13 DePauw victory and the storming of the field that followed. “It doesn’t take much (to motivate) in a game like this, but they were tired of me saying the same old stuff. They knew he was a legacy and a guy who was a great player, coach at Purdue, all that stuff.
“It was funny, I just went to the back of the room and smiled. Right there I could see, ‘Man, he’s going to be a great head coach someday.'”
Probably sooner rather than later.
After graduating from DePauw in 2005, Shephard worked in the NCAA’s Educational Services Division (2006-07) and with the National Center for Drug-Free Sport (2007-11).
But he was always forced to train.
So in 2011, he quit his job and started at Western Kentucky as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach.
“My wife (Hallie) and I randomly decided to sell the house and give it all up so I could pursue my dream,” says Shephard. “She knew I had wanted to do this for a long time, and eventually we dropped everything, didn’t get paid, and went to volunteer.
“Now we are here at the University of Washington. How did it happen? I have no idea.”
Over the past 11 years, Shephard has risen through the ranks – at Western Kentucky (2011-15), Washington State (2016), Purdue (2017-21) and Washington. He went from volunteer coaching with the Hilltoppers to associate head coach, passing play coordinator and wide receivers coach with the Huskies.
He developed a pair of Big Ten Freshmen of the Year winners, in Purdue wide receivers David Bell and Rondale Moore.
Now he’s tasked with elevating a Husky offense that finished 10th in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency (119.14) and yards per pass attempt (6.6) in 2021.
And through it all, the bell continues to ring; his enthusiasm lasted.
“I know you’re already seeing that energy,” says Jared Dangerfield, who set single-season records for receptions (82) and touchdowns (11) after transferring to Western Kentucky in 2014. “You hear his voice early in the morning. He has that energy. He brings it to meetings. He’s going to bring it out into the field, especially for people who need to be motivated. He gets them to plug in.
“He’s always like that. He’s not faking either, and that’s coming from a good place. It comes from a place of love. He loves the game. He loves his players. He’s never like that.
In meetings, he is like that. In games, it’s like that. In practice, “you’re going to see him running after receivers, trying to snatch the ball,” Dangerfield says. “As a receiver, we were grabbing the hitch and it was chasing us.”
This chase is endless.
The assistant, now 39, is demonstrative and demanding by nature.
“Sometimes you’d have a coach yelling at you about something, running on the field or finishing or whatever, and there was this little voice in the back of your head that said, ‘Hey , you can’t do it,” Shephard says.
“I hope my players never feel that way, because I’m pretty much there to do it with them. So if I tell them to do something, I’m going to demonstrate it, show it and do it myself- even, so that they feel they have to do it better than me.
At DePauw, Shephard has done it better than most – and his enthusiasm is undying.
Eighteen years after ringing the bell, it rings. The accomplished captain did not quit.
“I’ve had the pleasure of captaining almost every team I’ve played on, so it’s something that’s always been part of my lifestyle, part of me,” he says. . “I even try to lead my family, lead my mother, my brothers and sisters.
“To me, the more excited you are about what you do, the more you’ll want to come back every day and do it over and over again. Sometimes we get into this business and take it as a job. I don’t even see that as a job at all. It’s just something that, to be completely honest about it, I’m blessed and blessed to do. I’m very happy that coach (Kalen) DeBoer is allowing me to be here.