Two Blue Springs School District graduates have been a part of something special at North Dakota State.
Blue Springs High School graduate Darrius Shepherd and Blue Springs South grad Adam Cofield will be appearing in their third and second Football Championship Subdivision title games, respectively, at 11 a.m. Saturday when the Bison meet Eastern Washington at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
They have been a part of a dynasty that has spanned from 2011 to 2019. In that span, the Bison have won six national championships. Shepherd has been a part of two and has been one of the North Dakota State’s top two receivers since his freshman season.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of this,” Shepherd said. “This whole experience has been something special. I will have a chance to win my third championship this Saturday. Playing in the championship game never gets old. We are all excited for it.”
Shepherd was able to catch passes from current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz during his freshman season, and has worked with signal caller Easton Stick the past three years. Shepherd has built a good rapport with his fellow senior, putting together a career year. He leads the team in receptions (57), receiving yards (940) and touchdown receptions (seven). Shepherd also returned 19 punts for 296 yards, averaging 15.6 yards per return.
“(Easton) has been my roommate the past three years, so we know each other pretty well,” said Shepherd, who was named a third-team FCS All-American as a punt returner this season. “We have good chemistry and a lot of hard work has led to a great season.”
Cofield also has had some success in a committee of four running backs. The former Jaguar has 568 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 81 carries (6.9 yards per carry). His biggest run perhaps came in the FCS Championship semifinal game in which he broke off a big run of 51 yards.
“Being in a committee is helpful in this type of offense because we run the ball a lot,” Cofield said. “It’s easy for us to have a good run then put another guy in there who’s fresh. It helps keep us healthy.”
Like Shepherd, Cofield said he’s enjoyed being a part of a dynasty.
“It’s a true blessing to compete with these guys. We always try to strive for excellence,” Cofield said. “This program is based on being successful. We want to keep that trend going.”
And after this year, Cofield and the rest of the Bison will try to keep up that trend without head coach Chris Klieman, who will be Kansas State’s new head coach.
“There was a lot of emotions going around when he told the team he was going to Kansas State,” Cofield said of Klieman, who will go for his fourth FCS championship Saturday in six seasons as the Bison head coach. “He’s made everyone a better player. We thank all that he’s done. We wish him the best of luck in the future.”
As for Shepherd, this will be his last season playing college football. He said he would like to play professionally after he’s done Saturday. According to a Yahoo! Sports article, Shepherd is listed as one of five North Dakota State NFL prospects to watch in the championship.
The article describes Shepherd as a “very good athlete with a good release, slippery and likely going to run in the low 4.5s or high-to-mid 4.4s in the 40-yard dash. He can do a lot on special teams, as well.” He is projected to be a priority free agent.
“I would love to play in the NFL. That’s a dream of mine,” Shepherd said. “But first, I have to help my team win a championship. Then I will focus on that.”