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Post-combine Q & A with Qaadir Sheppard

Four former Ole Miss Rebels were invited to the 2020 NFL Combine, and Qaadir Sheppard, an outside linebacker or defensive end, is projected toward the late rounds of the draft and could potentially go undrafted.

Right now, he’s putting all of his effort to convincing teams he’s worth a draft pick in April. Ole Miss will hold their pro day later this month, the next step for Sheppard to show off to scouts. The EAGLE caught up with Sheppard after February’s combine. Below is that conversation.

Q: What went through your mind when you got that combine invite?
A: “It was really like a dream come true. I never really thought I would get the invite, the way the season went for me this year. And the invite for me came really late. It still kind of shows that I have a great skill-set. It was really a dream come true for me.”

Q: Your junior numbers, junior year tape are a little better than your senior year. What was a little different, maybe a little harder this year?
A: “I was a little limited this year. I only played on one side of the field, and that was the weak side. Most of the time, I was just dropping into coverage. So it was nothing really that was hard on me, but I wasn’t getting a ton of action on most plays.”

Q: What was your experience at the combine, getting to know the other guys and going through that process?
A: “It was really stressful. It’s exciting and stressful and anxious all at the same time. You get there four days before you ever do anything official on the field. All the interviews, the tests and stuff you do are really something you have to prepare for. You’re doing more interviews than you’re doing workouts. … They were mostly asking questions to find out what kind of person you are, try and find out if you’re going to be a disturbance in the locker room or a hot head or things like that. They’re just trying to figure you out as a person.”

Q: What sort of feedback did you get from teams:
A: “I’ve had a lot of teams say they like my play, but I haven’t heard of anywhere or any teams as far as the draft goes. I think my testing numbers are okay. I think I can do a lot better than 4.80 that I ran in the 40 and I know in my vertical, I’ve jumped way higher than 31 inches when I was practicing before that. I just have to see how well I can do at my pro-day; I definitely think I can get better numbers.”

Q: What kind of numbers are you looking at in the pro-day?
A: “I want to run a 4.7 in the 40 for sure.”

Q: You’re projected as a late round pick, maybe undrafted. What goes through your mind when you see people saying things like that?
A: “I really don’t worry too much about that. I know when I get into the league, whatever team I go to, I’m going to play my heart out and make them a fan of me. I always play with a chip on my shoulder, being from the Bronx anyways. So this is no different.”

Q: What sort of advice has your agent given you throughout the process?
A: “He’s just always reminding me to be myself, that’s the biggest thing. These teams just want to know who you are. So, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself or get too anxious and just be myself.”

Q: What specifically did you try and work on in those months between the season leading up to the combine?
A: “One thing that I really worked on a lot was my start in the 40. I worked a lot with all the combine drills, to be honest, but a lot with the 40. Now I’m focusing on the end, getting my knees up. I worked out in Nashville at Boost Performance leading up to the draft, and they gave a lot of good advice and helped get me ready.”

Q: You played a lot of last season with the club on your hand. Is it healthy? What did the teams say about it?
A: “They just poked around with my hand, the doctors did, just trying to make sure I had full motion with it. It’s definitely fully healthy now and that’s not an issue.”

Q; How much did the club affect your play for the season? 
A: “Honestly, I think it affected me a lot. My left hand, the one with the club, was my dominant hand. So it was just weird trying to do everything with my right. Sometimes, I was still accidentally using my left hand when it hurt or I would hit someone with the club and it would hurt a lot… tackling, trying to grab someone, was really hard and then there’s a lot of pass rush moves and stuff.”

Q: Playing both outside linebacker and defensive end here at Ole Miss, do you prefer one? Is there one that teams look at you more for?
A: “I think I’m really good at both, to be honest. This past season, I think if I would’ve been able to be involved on both sides of the field, I think I could have had a better year. I get mixed reviews, some teams looking at me as a 3-4 outside linebacker and some teams want me as a four-down defensive end.”

Q: From now till the pro day, what’re you trying to focus on?
A: “I’m still trying to hone in on my combine drills. Then after the pro day, I want to focus more on football skills, my defensive line skills and hand techniques. That’s what I want to work on all summer.”

Q: Being a late-round pick and trying to make a roster is different than guys drafted early who teams have a lot of capital tied to. How do you approach that process differently?
A: “It’s extra motivation. I want to get to the second contract, because then you’re paid like those first round draft picks. So I’m just going to play with a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been prepared for this process for a while. From Syracuse to Ole Miss and coaching changes there, I felt like I had a new coach every year. Adjusting to a new coach, for me, is really easy now because I’ve had so many. And I think that’ll help me.”