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BLOG: Rebels’ Shepard leaves football team

Cornerback Tee Shepard has left Ole Miss’ football team.

Citing injuries and complications from a lifelong hearing impairment, Shepard said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon that he’s done playing football. The former junior college All-American said he will stay in school to finish his degree.

“The injuries and challenges I have overcome the last few years have taken away my love for playing the game of football,” Shepard said in the statement. “I want to thank Rebel Nation for the support they have shown me in my time here. I want to especially thank (head) coach (Hugh) Freeze for showing me what unconditional love is like. I will always love this team and cheer them on as they compete for a championship.”

Shepard spent the Rebels’ first five games as the third cornerback behind Tony Bridges and Kendarius Webster, finishing with just two tackles and a pass breakup.

“While we had hoped Tee would continue playing, he has chosen to conclude his career and focus on finishing his degree here at Ole Miss,” Freeze said in a statement. “We respect his decision and wish him the very best. He will always be a part of our family, and we hope he continues to use his platform to impact others.”

Shepard, a California native who committed to Notre Dame while in high school, signed with Ole Miss out of Holmes Community College last February, but he tore a toe tendon during fall camp that required season-ending surgery. Shepard has also been dealing with a knee injury this season, Freeze said during his weekly press conference Monday.

He was healthy entering the season, but his hearing impairment, which Shepard described in the spring as low-sound frequency, was a hindrance despite how much he and coaches spoke about modern advances.

Shepard was fitted with small, new-age hearing aids when he arrived on campus that could be worn during practices and games, and he heard a whistle on the field for the first time ever last fall. But Shepard’s reps decreased with each game this season as he struggled to keep up with offenses before the snap, a problem that was magnified in games at Alabama and Florida.

“In that kind of environment, they used a lot of shifts and a lot of motion. A lot of teams have been doing that to us,” Freeze said Monday. “It has nothing to do with his physical skills. When they do that, we have to make a check, and that is very difficult for him. With the games that we are playing, it’s much easier to play at home than on the road. That is an issue for him.”