Former Riders Offensive Lineman Dakoda Shepley is making the most of his NFL opportunity with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 25-year-old was waiting to find out what the status was with the CFL season, when a friend in Dallas invited him on a road trip starting in Detroit.
In Nashville, he found out the CFL season was likely cancelled. He then opted out of his CFL contract.
When he arrived in Dallas, he got a call from his agent saying Adam Peters, saying the V.P. of the San Francisco’s NFL team was interested.
“The 49ers want a video of you working out wherever you are right now to see if you’re in shape,” Shepley said he was told by his agent. “As soon as I got to Dallas I started filming.”
The video led to a tryout with the defending NFC Champions, just days after requesting his release from the Riders.
“It was the last week of camp when I got signed,” Shepley said. “So I really only had two days of camp and two practices after camp.”
In those four practices, the offensive guard beat out three former NFL draft picks to make the 49ers practice squad. Shepley believes it was his athletic ability and grasp of the offense that landed him a spot with the team.
“Ability to pick up the playbook in the short time that I did and they really threw me in the fire, they put me at centre here,” Shepley noted.
It probably didn’t hurt that the Shepley also had an in with the head coach’s son. The football player pursues acting on the side and had a cameo on Deadpool as ‘Omega Red’.
“First thing that Kyle Shanahan, the Head Coach said to me, was ‘ah dude, you’re a celebrity in my house, my son loves you,’” Shepley laughed.
This is Shepley’s second stint in the NFL. He played three pre-season games with the New York Jets in 2018. But admits, he was under prepared for his first opportunity.
“The Canadian University program to the NFL, it’s a massive jump, and learning curve,” Shepley said. “I really needed the year of professional experience in the CFL and learning how to prepare like a Pro.”
On the 49ers practice roster, he’s taking reps at centre and guard. He’s become close with 11-year NFL veteran Ben Garland, who began the season on the injured list.
Garland plays centre, so when he returned from injury, Shepley started training in multiple positions. He said he’s been told by a defensive lineman on the team that 20 scouts watch each practice video.
“It’s less about what do I need to do to become a starter or play in a football game. It’s what do I need to do to make sure that I’m better than what I put on film yesterday,” said Shepley.
He was told upfront by San Francisco that they don’t sign practice squad players to be a place holder on the field, or to collect a pay cheque each week for practicing. He’s with the organization for a reason.
“Something that was outlined to me very clearly when they signed me was you’re here because we want you to play,” said Shepley.
The 2019 Riders Most Outstanding Rookie admits if it wasn’t for the pandemic, he likely wouldn’t have gotten this NFL opportunity. However, he can’t help but think about what could have been in Saskatchewan.
“It would have been a lot of fun to win a Grey Cup in Regina,” he said.