It was less than 10 years ago that Dakoda Shepley was wishing for a professional hockey career.
Now, at 23 he’s at the start of his career in professional football all because of a broken bone.
“I was a hockey player for nine and a half years. I end up breaking my hand fighting in hockey in grade ten,” Shepley explained. “The surgeon I went to go see to assess my hand gave me a 30-minute spiel on why I should be playing football.”
Shepley and his mom were won over by the surgeon who told them about possible university scholarships and a professional career, both of which have come to fruition.
The Windsor-born offensive lineman was taken fifth overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL draft Thursday, but that’s his second professional opportunity this week.
After going undrafted in the NFL draft, the New York Jets signed him to a free agent contract.
In fact, he arrived in New Jersey Thursday mere hours before the CFL draft.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to get chosen as high as I did given the current situation I have in the NFL. Hearing my name called by Saskatchewan was a surprise but a good one,” he said Thursday evening.
Shepley will likely be with the Jets for the foreseeable future. He’s currently participating in rookie camp and main training camp begins in late July. If he makes the team, the Roughriders may never see him.
But that was a risk the club was willing to take, according to assistant vice-president of football operations John Murphy.
“If you let better guys go to other teams they’re going to get better and you’re going to keep struggling,” he said simply.
“The NFL has a chance to get the best players in the world. If (Shepley) turns out to be one of them God bless and terrific.”
And becoming one of those best players in the world is what Shepley is focused on right now.
“The way I operate is one thing at a time, don’t get too ahead of myself. What I have on my plate that’s what I eat first … If it doesn’t work out for me (with the Jets), it doesn’t work out but just by my nature I have to give it my all and hope that I do stick.”
Shepley, who played college at the University of British Columbia, is considered a guy that would be able to make an impact in the CFL right away. The Riders other assistant vice-president of football operations Jeremy O’Day said he could compete for a starting position if he ends up in Saskatchewan.
“You always run the risk of not seeing him for a while but he’s a guy that plays all three positions on the offensive line. He’s one of the best testers of the group. He’s the size (6’4” and 306 lbs) that fits and like I said he’s a guy we had ranked up at the top of o-lineman.”
But Shepley’s ability play pro ball south of the border came as a surprise to him. It wasn’t until he hooked up with his agent in October that he realized it could happen.
“I wasn’t really set on one (opportunity) I just wanted to play football and get as many teams interested in me as I possibly could.”
After attending the Eastern Michigan pro day where he was a relative unknown, he competed in the CFL combine later in the week.
“I kind of had the same idea going into the CFL combine – I had no idea I’d be the big name guy going into the CFL combine … it turned out I was a household name in the CFL as far as this draft year goes. It all caught me by surprise.”
But perhaps not more surprising than becoming a football star to begin with, though he admits maybe he was always built to play with a pigskin, not a puck.
“Turns out not a lot of 6’3” 265 lbs fourteen-year-olds are destined for hockey,” he laughed.
ROUGHRIDERS OTHER PICKS
- 14th overall: Micah Teitz, linebacker, University of Calgary
- 36th overall: Mathieu Breton, defensive lineman, Bishop’s University
- 45th overall: Tresor Buama-Mafuta, defensive lineman, Saint Mary’s University
- 63rd overall: Christopher Smith, offensive lineman, York University