For an athlete who hasn’t played football since he was in the seventh grade, Skipstone Academy linebacker/slot receiver B.J. Sheppard has made an impact for the Warriors this season.
Sheppard, a junior, has led Skipstone with 10 tackles per game and five interceptions from his linebacker position. One of his interceptions, a 71-yarder, was returned for a touchdown this year. On the offensive side of the ball, Sheppard has seven TDs from the receiver position.
“The good thing about playing football here at Skipstone is that I get to hit people — I love it,” Sheppard said. “I love playing defense the most because I get to be all over the field and get into the action on every play.”
Sheppard likes playing football period since his current school, Solid Rock Academy in Fayetteville, Ga., doesn’t have a football team at all (the school does have varsity baseball and basketball). With Skipstone currently an independent program and not affiliated with a league, it can add students from other schools to its sports programs.
Sheppard is a good student at Solid Rock, sporting a 3.3 grade point average. With that GPA and his proficiency in football, there's a chance Sheppard can get a college scholarship after his senior year. He's thinking about going to either Alcorn State, Auburn or Clark Atlanta.
Sheppard, who along with fellow players Charence Wright and Alex Stinchcomb was recruited by former Warriors head coach Stuart Gottlieb, gladly took the chance to come and play for the Warriors. Thanks to Solid Rock coach Harry Murphy, who shuttles the boys to and from Solid Rock, Sheppard gets the chance to help Warriors on the gridiron.
“Football is a lot of fun and I’m glad I’m getting a chance to play; I like getting interceptions and punishing people on the field,” he said. “Playing linebacker allows me see what’s going on in the field and make reads about the opponents’ offense.”
Warriors current head coach Nick Elliott loves having the 6-foot, 210-pound Sheppard on his team. It’s no coincidence that Sheppard’s inspired play has brought Skipstone from the depths of 0-8 in 2009 to 3-5 in 2010.
“B.J. is our instigator. He gets people where they need to go,” Elliott said. “He is the stronghold of the defense. He knows it like the back of his hand.”
Sheppard loves the fact that he's known all over Skipstone for his defensive prowess.
"People know you when you make a lot of hits," he said. "They come up to me and say 'wow, you hit him hard!' and 'did you see that hit?' It's pretty cool."