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Tee Shepard article in the DM

Post by GtownRebel » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:53 pm

Tee Shepard: 20 years to hearing your first whistle

Posted on Dec 2 2014 - 8:57am by Meaghan Snell

The whistle blew, marking the beginning of the 2014 fall camp for Ole Miss football, but the sound rang unfamiliar to a certain player. Tee Shepard, a new transfer to the Rebels, had just experienced hearing his first whistle.

Shepard is no stranger to the football field after spending a majority of his time there. That is until the whistle blew that day. For the first time ever, Shepard wasn’t just seeing the field; he was hearing it.

Tee Shepard is a 2012 graduate from Washington Union High School in Fresno, California. He attended Notre Dame in Spring 2012, then transferred to Holmes Community College and has found his way to Ole Miss all in the chase of a new recent dream to play college football.

Given his hearing disability, Shepard had never really expected to be as far as he is now in the sport.

“How am I going to play football with my hearing loss?” Shepard said to himself. “It wasn’t until high school that I realized I can do it.”

“I always thought my hearing loss would slow me down, but it didn’t because I found myself playing defense, and on defense it’s like sign language,” Shepard continued, referring to the hand signals defensive coaches use in football to communicate the plays they want to call to their players.

Shepard in his late high school years had decided he was not going to let his hearing issues hold him back and strived to be a Division I athlete. He is an experienced defensive back that floated between a four and five-star recruit before he reached the Rebel team. In other words, he was a highly sought after football player.

Unfortunately, due to eligibility issues, he could not partake in any Ole Miss football activities until this past year. Co-Defensive Coordinator Jason Jones and Assistant Athletic Director for Junior College Relations Barney Farrar both recruited Shepard over the years before coming to Oxford.

“I was not personally involved in the recruitment of Tee (Shepard). After a great job of recruiting by Coach Freeze, Coach Jones, and Coach Farrar, Tee was still one class short to be eligible,” Assistant Recruiting Director Branden Wenzel said. “He ended up needing to take an online class from the junior college in which he graduated last year in order to be eligible to play in the SEC.”

Shepard has played his entire football career without the use of hearing aids, and it was made known that it had no effect on his game or who Shepard was as a person, Wenzel mentioned. Shepard is a genuinely happy person who believes God has a plan for him. Even after dealing with his hearing issues and yet another injury this season, he always keeps a smile on his face.

“My mom had always told me, no matter what you’re going through in life, there’s always someone dealing with something worse. I’m alive and breathing so why not just smile,” said Shepard with a wide smile on his face.

Coach Wenzel saw this positive mindset in Shepard.

“There was never a concern once we got to know Tee, because we knew that Tee was the type of kid that wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of his dreams,” Wenzel said.

Once reaching the Ole Miss program, they were able to help make his hearing problem less of an issue with the use of hearing aids.

Throughout his life, Shepard had never been able to find the right technology he needed for his hearing loss. Once in Oxford with the right trainers and information, he was able to get the hearing aids he needed.

“They were so small you couldn’t even see them,” Shepard said.

That next practice after receiving his new aid was when Shepard truly had a life changing moment.

“When Coach Freeze blew the whistle, I had heard the noise come out for the first time ever. I started looking around and asking if there was a bird in here,” Shepard recalled. “What is that noise? Walked over to Coach, he blew it again and I was like whoa!”

Shepard then proceeded to yell over to Coach Farrar, who ran over in a hurry worrying something was wrong.

“I ran to him and said ‘What’s wrong Tee?’ He said, ‘Coach I just heard my first whistle.’

“You aren’t always fortunate enough to know how or get to see the changes you make in people, but I got to see how we impacted him,” Farrar said.

His hearing problems have been around since he was born, so it made sense that he had never heard a whistle. When he was born, they thought he had a bad ear infection, but could never figure out what was wrong. Given his lack in hearing for so long, Shepard learned the skill of reading lips.

“A lot of people say it’s hard, but it’s easy to me,” Shepard said. “I guess it’s just a talent or a gift, but I’ve been doing it since I was small.”

Shepard has even learned how to use his skill now in the game he loves most. He can read opposing coaches’ lips to get a head start on the play they’re choosing to run.

“I read what they’re yelling, so I know what they’re going to do, so then I can get the interception,” Shepard said.

“People will ask me how I knew that and I’ll just say it’s magic with a big grin and keep the interception all for myself.”



link http://thedmonline.com/tee-shepard-20-y ... t-whistle/

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