Cornerback Tee Shepard was among a group of last year’s first-year players who were made available for interviews for the first time just yesterday.
Shepard has a hearing problem, and he talks about that here. He was very frank with some personal questions, really a neat personality.
We were asked not to take video with this group, so here’s the Shepard transcript:
Torn toe tendons last year?
It was a freak accident. I’d not ever had a torn ligament. It was a freak accident but everything happens for a reason.
God made me better this season.
I was disappointed but at the same time it got me ready and prepared weight-wise. My weight, I was kind of like skinny. I wasn’t all that big. I’ve kind of like gained some weight.
I’m glad I went through the process. I don’t think I’d be this good now if I’d have played last year. (How much weight have you gained?) I’d say 10 pounds.
Where have you improved?
In the off-season going to rehab we were doing everything one-on-one instead of just being with the team, and the coaches can’t keep an eye on everybody. I just had a one-on-one workout, and that one-on-one workout got me prepared.
Do you trust the toe?
I do. If I don’t trust it there’s the possibility I could have another freak accident. I can’t think about it when I’m out there.
I’ve always been a physical corner, that type of guy that like pushes myself. I’ve always been that type of guy. You’ve got to be physical. The receivers like Laquon Treadwell, if you’re not physical they’re going to out-work you. Being physical is the key to playing cornerback to me.
Do you and Tony have to be lock-down corners for defense to succeed?
We have to. If’ we’re not the physical corners and lock-down corners … you can’t run the defense without putting the corners out on an island by ourselves. We have to do that.
Pressure on two new starters at corner?
It’s not a lot of pressure. I’ve been looking forward to this moment to be honest with you. It’s been a long journey for me. I’m excited. I’m ready to go.
Not exactly. I just need to get better overall and as a team. I’ve still got to learn the defense, technique and everything.
Can you hear calls on the field?
When they yell out the calls and everything, the checks, I can’t hear them. We do have a lot of hand signals like sign language. That helps me out a lot. That’s what I rely on. Defense, you can tell, a lot of coaches do a lot of checks and calls. That helps me out big-time.
New hearing technology helpful?
The new technology is phenomenal. When I got it last fall I heard my first whistle ever. I’m hearing sounds I ain’t never heard before. I’m starting to pick it up. It’s tight.
It was like the first days of fall. Coach Freeze blew the whistle. I was like tripping out. What was that noise? We got a bird in here? It was pretty crazy. He blew it again, and he was like, ‘Tee can’t you hear my whistle?’ I was lik,e ‘Blow it one more time.’ It was pretty exciting.
What was it like before these new hearing aids?
It was difficult. There were times when the referee would blow the whistle, and I would like come down and … (claps hands together to indicate hard hit).
The coaches would tell them I had a hearing problem, but they would still eject me from the game. (Estimates that’s he’s been ejected from a game more than 10 times through various levels of play.) Now I can hear the whistle because of my new technology hearing aids. I can wear them during games.
This is the first place that finally understands. They knew how bad my hearing was.
How hearing impaired are you?
(Tells us about low-sound frequencies being difficult, distance being difficult and how he relies on reading lips while he listens.)
My insurance didn’t pay for the high technology like I have here. I had those big hearing aids that go around your ears. I was hearing sounds, but it was never clear. It was kind of like listening to radio and trying to find the right channel. You can hear people, but it’s static. You could hear sounds, but it caused a lot of problems. You couldn’t hear what people were talking about. It was frustrating. I couldn’t play sports with them. I tried to run track, but sometimes when I ran too fast they would slip out of my ears. It caused a lot of problems.
When did you start playing football?
I was about seven years old. I couldn’t really tell myself at the time that I had hearing loss. The only reason I knew was because they were blowing the whistle, and I was still coming down cracking people. They were like, ‘Can you hear the whistle? You better get your hearing checked out.’
What do you expect from receivers in the SEC?
I expect a lot. We have some of the best receivers in the country all around. Not just Laquon, we’ve got Stringfellow, Quincy, DJ. Dj’s been coming.
Going against those guys every day, it gets me better, like 10 times better. I’ll be prepared for the wide receivers in the SEC. Not many teams have the receivers that we do. I believe we have the best receivers in the country.
Where do you need to improve?
There area a lot of things I need to improve on as far as getting the technique down, pushing off my toe more, getting out of my break and just learning the defense.
As a team, I’m looking forward to having a better season than we had last year. I think the defense is going to be better, more physical and have more talented guys than last year. I believe we have the quarterback this year to have a better offense. Just have a better year than last year. That’s our goal.