The Green Bay Packers had room to sign two tryout players from this weekend’s rookie minicamp. They have signed one: North Dakota State wide receiver Darrius Shepherd.
Playing for the FCS powerhouse Bison, Shepherd caught 62 passes for 1,065 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior and finished his career with 188 grabs for 2,841 yards and 20 touchdowns. He doubled as a punt returner, with a career average of 13.1 yards per opportunity and a 15.6-yard average with a long of 69 yards as a senior.
Shepherd was not invited to the Scouting Combine. At his pro day, he measured 5-foot-10 1/2 and 186 pounds. He ran his 40 in 4.61 seconds and posted a 35.5-inch vertical leap.
The Packers didn’t draft a receiver and had a void in the slot with the free-agent departure of Randall Cobb. The slot was Shepherd’s niche with the Bison. In the entire draft class, Shepherd ranked fourth with 3.73 yards per slot route, according to Pro Football Focus. He caught 50 passes from the slot, turning those into 816 yards and eight touchdowns.
He was MVP of the FCS national championship victory over Eastern Washington with five receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
“Carson Wentz is a great example of what the program is all about, and it’s not a surprise to see his success at the next level,” Shepherd said before pro day. “The physicality we play with is just part of what it means to be a Bison. You play for your brother next to you, and that shows every Saturday when we strap up the pads. It’s a special place for sure, on the field and off the field, and you leave that place a better person.”
Shepherd is one of 11 receivers on the roster. Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and the second-round group of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore and Jake Kumerow hold six of those spots. The others are receiver/returner Trevor Davis, first-year players Allen Lazard and Teo Redding, and undrafted rookie Matthew Eaton.
“I’m really content with the three guys we drafted last year,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said after the draft. “I think they have huge upsides; I thought they took really good steps last year. Obviously, Geronimo coming back, he’s kind of a veteran guy stepping into that role, and I do like some of our guys that are kind of competing for some spots there as well. It’s not like we wouldn’t add one if we thought the right guy was there, but I like that group.”
His father, Louis, played football for Missouri. A grandfather played basketball for Missouri State and the Los Angeles Lakers. He graduated in May with a degree in university studies.
Louis Shepherd died in July at age 44.
“I’m trying to keep his memory alive,” Shepherd said. “My dad was my rock. My guy. He played football and we always talked football. I’m really going to miss him, but the lessons I learned from him I’m going to continue to use to be a better man and help others around me.”