Did Ole Miss Sign Tee Shepard to Keep Him Away From Mississippi State?


Sep 12, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels defensive back Tee Shepard (2) carries the ball back against Fresno State Bulldogs wide receiver Keyan Williams (4) after intercepting the ball at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mississippi Rebels beat Fresno State Bulldogs 73 – 21. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Mississippi State Recruiting Class in 2014 was never heralded as one of the best group of players to sign for a school. Most recruiting experts had the incoming Bulldogs rated anywhere from 30 to 40.

But what they lacked in notoriety, they made up for in cohesiveness. The group became known as the Catch Up Gang. They often tweeted and posted on other Social Media about how they were going to do special things once they got to Starkville.

Once National Signing Day arrived, the fax letters of all the recruits Mississippi State had worked to sign began to roll in. Most of them came early, with one lone exception.

Tee Shepard, one of the best defensive backs in the JUCO ranks had yet to send his in. Most of the beat writers were reporting the coaching staff was expecting another letter to come in, and they all made the natural assumption the letter the staff was waiting of was Tee Shepard’s.

Shepard was committed to the Bulldogs for quite some time before National Signing Day in 2014, and there was not any real speculation he might waver in his commitment. Even though the letter had not come in as early as many thought it would, no one was anticipating Shepard might sign with another school. That’s when the news hit.

Ole Miss announced the signing of the coveted recruit sometime later that day. The story of how Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze spent all night on the phone with Tee Shepard has become a bit of a legendary tale. In the night before National Signing Day, Freeze was on the phone with Shepard trying to convince the defensive back to switch from the Bulldogs to the Rebels.

It worked.

It was a big flip for the Rebels. And it was a huge loss for Dan Mullen and his coaching staff. The Bulldogs needed to add help to their secondary in 2014. A talented defensive back could have helped make some of the big plays the Mississippi State secondary gave up in 2014 a little less frequent.

But things haven’t gone so well for Tee Shepard in Oxford. He suffered a season ending injury in 2014. But after the season was lost last year, Shepard was ready to contribute in 2015, and many thought he was ready to fill the shoes of Senquez Golson who graduated and was drafted into the NFL.

And that was the plan, but as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. Tee Shepard has a well documented hearing disability. And earlier in 2015, it was announced Shepard was leaving football for good mainly due to the complications from his disability.

Fast forward to the 7th game of the year for Ole Miss. The Rebels were supposed to walk into the Liberty Bowl and pick up a good out of conference win against the Memphis Tigers. What happened was an inspired Memphis Tigers team came out and erased an early 14-0 deficit and controlled the rest of the football game to pull off a massive upset.

As a result, there has been turmoil in Oxford. One of the reasons Memphis was so successful was because the Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch lit up the Ole Miss secondary. A talented defensive back might could have been helpful in stopping the Tiger offense.

When there is turmoil, people often begin to voice their displeasure. Tee Shepard has started to voice his displeasure. This was released earlier today.

The most significant part of that tweet is in one of the pictures, Tee Shepard says he believes Ole Miss only recruited him to keep him away from Mississippi State. Is it true?

If you have ever been married or in a long term relationship with someone, you have likely been in argument with that person. And in that argument, you know that your intentions aren’t relevant. What is relevant is how your significant other was made to feel in the argument. If a husband says something to their wife about the way she looks intending it as a compliment, but it made her feel fat, his intentions don’t matter.

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Tee Shepard, according to what he said in this tweet, feels like Ole Miss only wanted him to keep him from Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs. It could be true. Or It could be a former player lashing out at his former team and kicking them while they are done. It could be there is simply a misunderstanding between the coaches and Shepard.

The only people who truly know are the Ole Miss Coaches. And if they ever get asked about this, they are going to say they saw a talented player who they felt could contribute to the team, but it simply didn’t work out. They could be telling the truth, but Mississippi State fans won’t believe them, and Ole Miss fans will. That just comes with the territory.

The more important question is does this happen in college football, and if it should happen, is it right? I can’t recall one instance of a player ever making such a statement, even ones who had careers that didn’t pan out the way they had hoped. But would such an action be going too far?

The idea of college is to prepare young people for their future occupations. Tee Shepard wanted to pursue a career at the highest level of football. But when it comes to college athletics, winning is the goal, not necessarily to put players in the pros. And if keeping a certain player from a school will improve your chances of winning even though you won’t be able to use the player, should it be done?

Ole Miss might have done this, but it is also possible they truly had every intention of putting Tee Shepard on the field and watching him contribute to their team. We don’t know. But what we do know is Tee Shepard thinks he could have contributed to the Rebels, but feels like he was only brought there to stay away from Starkville.

And just like your ticked off significant other, how he feels is far more important than what Ole Miss intended.

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