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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 28 2013

NDSU's Shepherd finally gets his chance to face Kansas State

FARGO – When Nebraska-Omaha unexpectedly dropped its football program and left its players without an athletic home, Bryan Shepherd found himself being recruited all over again. This time, a few Division I schools came calling.

One of them, North Dakota State, offered the defensive back a successful program that plays in one of the top conferences in the FCS. Oh, and there was one other pitch: If he signed with the Bison, he would have a chance to play near his hometown.

Today, Shepherd will be on the NDSU team charter back to Kansas.

“Coach (Craig) Bohl reminded me that I would be able to come back and play against K-State,” he said, “so I was always looking forward to that.”

The time is near. NDSU will open its season at Kansas State on Friday night in Manhattan, Kan., located about 125 miles from Shepherd’s hometown of Olathe, Kan. Shepherd’s college career has blossomed since his prep days at Olathe North, where he was a second team all-metro selection in the Kansas City area.

He started all 11 games for UNO as a freshman in 2009 and will forever be in the Mavericks record books (unless they resurrect their program) with a school-record 89-yard interception return for a touchdown.

His crowning achievement, however, was a career-high nine tackles in the FCS title game win over Sam Houston State (Texas) last January. Now comes another highlight: Playing in front of a lot of familiar faces.

“It feels good because not a lot of my family members have been able to come and see a game,” Shepherd said. “A lot of them will be there to support me and cheer us on.”

Shepherd played a valuable role last year after starting strong safety Colten Heagle went down with a knee injury in the first game of last season. Shepherd also went down with a lacerated kidney later in the season, but returned for the playoffs.

Both are back this season and will at times share the field depending on the opposing team’s offense.

“It’s always good having Colten back,” Shepherd said. “He helps me and I help him. It’s good because if I don’t see something on a play, Colten lets me know and vice versa.”

Shepherd grew up a K-State fan idolizing former Wildcats standout Darren Sproles, who has since become a productive NFL player. One of the Wildcats’ top players is linebacker Trey Walker, a former teammate with Shepherd at Olathe North.

“That will be fun to see him out there on the field,” he said. “There hasn’t been too much trash talking – I talked to him here and there over the summer. We knew we were playing each other, but that’s about it.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia