Nathan Shepherd Reflects on Rookie Season During His Return to Hays


“Wow, it’s great to be back,” said former FHSU All-American defensive lineman, Nathan Shepherd, Wednesday afternoon in front of a room full of Tiger fans at Smoky Hill Country Club in Hays. 

The Canada native just wrapped up his rookie season with the New York Jets after playing three years at Fort Hays State. He was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft,  and recorded 15 tackles during his first-year campaign in the league. 

Shepherd expressed his gratitude to his fans, not only during his run at FHSU, but as he entered his rookie season. 

“I just want to thank you guys, so much, for believing in me and allowing me to come back and give back to the town that has provided me with so much. I hope I can continue to return to Hays every year and hold a similar event like this, to show that I am forever grateful for you guys.” 

Shepherd took questions from the public and closed his speech with a story he holds near and dear to his heart after becoming a third-round draft pick. 

Nate Burleson, former NFL wide receiver and current commentator for NFL Network’s televised program “Good Morning Football”, ran into him at a Canadian night club where Shepherd was formerly employed as a bouncer. 

“I saw him in the club and I just wanted to talk football,” Shepherd said. 

Shepherd continued reflecting on the interaction, saying it’s a moment he would never forget. 

“Burleson looked at me, told me he was going to see me in the league one day. He said, you’re huge, I can tell you love football, it’s going to be all about what you make out of your opportunities.” 

Shepherd recalled after their conversation had ended, Burleson reached into his pocket and gave him a one hundred dollar bill, and stated it was an advance on Shepherd’s NFL signing bonus. 

Shortly after the draft, Shepherd received an opportunity to come on as a guest on “Good Morning Football” in New York. 

“I don’t think he Burleson remembered what happened when we met in Canada that one night. He was shocked when I retold the story on the show and pulled out one hundred dollars to give back to him,” Shepherd said. I wanted to say thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” 

After speaking to the public, the former Tiger stuck around for an autograph signing that was open to fans of all ages. 

Shepherd will debut his second season in the NFL next month, when the Jets take on the New York Giants for a preseason matchup on August 8th. 

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