Headed to his third NFL team in three years, former Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd is hopeful that the Pittsburgh Steelers will become a long-term landing spot.
Shepherd, who spent last season as a kick returner for San Francisco, signed with the Steelers last weekend when they were searching for depth in the secondary. Three Pittsburgh cornerbacks have been sidelined with injuries since the start of training camp.
"I just love to play so really just getting an opportunity to play anywhere is a blessing,” Shepherd told PennLive.com.
Originally a sixth-round pick in 2015 by Philadelphia, Shepherd hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase his skills on defense. He missed the 2015 season with an ACL tear in his knee.
Chip Kelly, the coach who drafted him, said Shepherd was on pace to become the team’s starting nickel back before his season-ending injury in his rookie year.
When Kelly was hired by the 49ers, he signed Shepherd to a contract where he returned 21 kickoffs for an average of 21.7 yards. But after Kelly was fired in San Francisco, Shepherd was released by the 49ers following the NFL Draft.
Shepherd arrived to Saint Vincent College, where the Steelers hold training camp, on Saturday afternoon after receiving a call from his agent on Friday. He is considered a long shot to make the team’s 53-man roster when the season begins, but Shepherd said the key is to “get something on film.”
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin told reporters he was unsure if the team would use Shepherd to return kicks, but the former KU defensive back wouldn’t mind.
“If I get the opportunity to show that I can do that for them,” Shepherd told PennLive.com, “then I'm going to compete and I'm going to do all I can do and show all I can do just like I plan on doing in the secondary.”
In his senior season at KU, in 2014, Shepherd recorded 30 tackles and three interceptions.