Linebacker leads by example in senior season

Wyatt Sheppard has pressured offenses all season. Tonight he plays in his final high school game.


Eliza Gonzalez

Senior linebacker Wyatt Sheppard takes a break during an offensive series in the 27-18 win against Santa Fe on Nov. 19.

Gabby Norman, Managing Editor

Wyatt Sheppard’s major philosophy on the football field is to put his teammates first. After that, everything will fall into place. The senior linebacker has been a three-year varsity player. As one of the stars of the team, he leads the team in eight of the 12 defensive stats categories.

“It’s not about how good or technical you are,” Sheppard said. “It’s about how much you want it.”

He wants it. 

The further into the season they got, Sheppard started to realize he doesn’t want his football career to end; and he has started to realize he needs to contact coaches in order to further his dedication to the sport. 

Sheppard’s dedication is a reflection of this year’s varsity team. After a rough start, Sheppard said he believes the team will find its groove in a new district. Varsity defensive line coach Jeff Knight agrees with him.

“We have a team of very hard-working kids,” Knight said. “They have great chemistry and are dedicated to being successful.”

Despite the chemistry, the season had a bumpy start. Games were delayed because of COVID and then the Panthers had to play the best schools in the district right at the beginning of the season. With their final game of the season tonight at Turner Stadium, the team is 3-6 and ranked 6th in the district. The playoffs are out of reach, snapping a three-year streak of reaching the postseason. 

Beyond football, Sheppard has high hopes for his senior year and wants to leave with no regrets. 

“I’m trying to have as much fun as I can my senior year,” Sheppard said. “I just like hanging out with my friends and having a good time.  Quarantine gave me a lot of time to work on myself: I lost 20 pounds.”

Even with quarantine’s positive aspects for Sheppard, he is upset about all the opportunities he has missed out on — like a homecoming dance — and is hoping for a prom. With the future uncertain, he has decided to focus on present goals, like breaking the tackling record that was set last year by Christian Leierer. 

According to defensive coordinator Mark Miller, the effort Sheppard shows is an example for the whole team. In nine games, Sheppard leads the team with 117 total tackles and 16 tackles for loss. He is second on the team with 39 assisted tackles. Sheppard also leads the team with 21 quarterback pressures, four sacks, nine strips, four fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

“I just do my job,” Sheppard said. “Hustle makes a good football player, but ultimately it takes a lot of heart and wanting to be a great player. It’s not how fast you are, but how much you want it.”