Darrius Shepherd is going to be a Bison, and the standout wide receiver/return man is counting on continuing the success he's enjoyed the past two seasons at Blue Springs High School the next four years at North Dakota State University.
Shepherd had made a verbal commitment to South Dakota State, but he changed his mind when he got a Facebook message from Bison head coach Chris Klieman.
“It's been a whirlwind last couple of days,” said Shepherd, who led the 14-0 back-to-back Class 6 state champion Wildcats in receptions and return yardage. “I went to South Dakota on Jan. 17, and got back on Sunday.
“Monday was Martin Luther King Day, and on Tuesday – I don't know why – but I was up early, like at 5 a.m. I got a Facebook message from Coach Klieman. He said he had an open spot at wide receiver and wanted me to be a part of his team.”
Klieman made a visit to the high school, and Shepherd agreed to visit the campus in Fargo, N.D.
“I then went to Fargo for a visit and fell in love with the place. It was cold – real cold – and there was a lot of snow, but Fargo reminded me of Blue Springs. I enjoyed meeting the coaches and hung out with some of the players, and all they talked about was football.
“They didn't want to go party, or even talk about partying. It was all football – and I liked that. I knew I wanted to sign, but I told them I had to talk to my parents.”
He returned to Blue Springs, talked with his folks and accepted the full scholarship from North Dakota State.
“They came down and made a home visit Tuesday, which was why I missed the MaxPreps Awards at the gym,” Shepherd said, referring to Tuesday’s ceremony in which the Blue Springs football team was honored for winning its second straight state title and its final No. 11 national ranking.
“I want to major in PE and health and be a coach, and they have a great program. It's all pretty exciting because there wasn't much going on for a long time, then I got this offer, and I just had to say yes.”
No one is happier for Shepherd than Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe.
“I told Shep that good things come to good people,” the coach said, “and Shep is just the best. They've got a great player and an even greater young man. He is really going to have an impact on that team.”
North Dakota State has won back-to-back NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly Division I-AA) national championships. It beat Sam Houston State 39-13 to win last season's title and beat defending Big 12 champion Kansas State 24-21 in Manhattan, Kan., in last fall’s season opener.
“They're 36-2 over the last three years and have beat KU and K-State,” Shepherd said. “And they talk about using me in the slot, with some backfield stuff and I'll be a return man. There's a chance I could see a lot of playing time next season.”
The Bison finished the season with a 14-1 record, including a 7-1 mark in winning the Missouri Valley Football Conference title. North Dakota State will travel to play Missouri State in Springfield on Nov. 15 next season.