ALLEN PARK — Kelvin Sheppard was home in Miami this fall, training for a football career he hoped wasn’t over yet, waiting on a cell phone to ring and tell him his belief was right.
The 30-year-old linebacker has started 63 games and made 418 career tackles, so this was newer territory for him. He’d last worked out for the Lions in July, but he hadn’t talked to them or had any other workouts since then.
“It’s hard. I’d be lying to say it’s not, especially for a veteran guy,” Sheppard said. “You’ve played your whole life, pretty much every year, been a starter every year. It’s like next year, next year, next year, next year. Then you hit that pause and it’s like, ‘Whoa.'”
Sheppard claims he received calls from some other teams for potential workouts but wasn’t too interested in any of them. He said he was looking for the right fit, though he’s keeping that definition private.
He said the Lions were the call he was waiting on for months, and for the longest time, he didn’t have any direct signs that it would come. They hadn’t reached out since his workout and had brought other linebackers in instead.
But he waited and waited, and finally the call came. The Lions had an open roster spot after trading Golden Tate to the Eagles for a third-round pick. They wanted some defensive help for a unit that’s been struggling for much of the season in Matt Patricia’s new hybrid scheme. They also needed some depth as Jalen Reeves-Maybin popped up on the injury report with neck and toe injuries. Reeves-Maybin is doubtful to play Sunday against the Vikings.
Sheppard has not played in a defense quite like Patricia’s. New York’s was a strict 4-3 alignment. But that’s the defense that Patricia has been pulling contributors from all season. Devon Kennard, Romeo Okwara and Damon “Snacks” Harrison all arrived after Patiricia was hired, and they’re all playing starter-level snaps for the Lions now.
Patricia knows the Giants roster as well as any other beyond New England, which is the one he coached last season. Patricia tried hard for New York’s head coaching opening before he ended up in Detroit.
It’s helped bring Sheppard to Detroit, like he’d been waiting for months for.
“It’s just believing in God, knowing that he has a plan for you, keeping the faith and knowing this opportunity would come,” Sheppard said.