Xavier Loyd, who is ready to get back to playing football for Blue Springs High School, is always looking for some teammates or area athletes to workout with during this COVID-19 pandemic.
He hit the jackpot at a recent session that was orchestrated by Blue Springs graduate Darrius Shepherd, who won back-to-back state football titles with the Wildcats in 2012 and 2013 and is now a member of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
“With so many of the high school fields closed, we’re all out there looking for a place to practice,” said Loyd, who is expected to team with Isaac Harkness to give the Wildcats a solid senior receiving corps this fall.
“I saw Darrius at a practice and we started talking. I told him about how serious I am about taking my game to the next level. He told me to meet him at the field, and to bring a notebook and a pencil to take notes.
“And he told me that the practice would start at 3 p.m., and to be early. To Darrius, if practice starts at 3, you better be there by 2:30 – and I was.”
That impressed Shepherd.
“I didn’t know Xavier before, but he reached out and said how he wanted to improve his game, so we set up a time to workout,” Shepherd said. “The ‘get there early’ part just shows if someone really cares, and he brought the notebook so he could write down key points so he didn’t forget them later.
“I do enjoy working with young players, and if I can help, that’s great. I was taught to pass it on. And I want to see the guys in this area go on to have success in football and life.”
Shepherd brought along a friend who knows a thing or two about passing the football, Skylar Thompson, the current Kansas State University starting quarterback and the all-state and Simone Award-winning Fort Osage High School signal caller who led the Indians to a state title in 2015.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Loyd said. “I’m getting comments from Darrius Shepherd on how to run routes, really important things that will help my game, while Skylar Thompson is throwing me passes. It was just unbelievable!”
Loyd was invited to Kansas State for a visit last year and the then junior happened to be at the game in which Thompson completed 18 passes for 213 yards and rushed for four touchdowns as he led the Wildcats to a 48-41 upset win over No. 5 Oklahoma.
“That was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in my life,” Loyd said. “And the quarterback who did all that was throwing me passes at a practice (in Eastern Jackson County).
“It was kind of overwhelming at first, but Darrius and Skylar were so great. They made me feel at ease – like we were all friends.”
Loyd had hoped to fine-tune his game this summer at a variety of camps, but they have all been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Without being able to go to any camps, I’m just working hard here in my backyard, making sure that no one outworks me this summer,” Loyd said.
That will be good news to David White, the Wildcats’ new head coach who replaces Kelly Donohoe, who won 191 games at Blue Springs over the last two decades.
“This is going to be a big season at Blue Springs,” Loyd said. “We have a lot of new players, a new head coach and a lot of excitement. I just hope we can play, that the virus doesn’t keep us from playing in the fall. That would be so disappointing. But I’m keeping positive, looking forward to my senior year. I can’t wait!”