Coby Shepherd realized that halfway through the 2016 season that he wanted to play football beyond his days at Seymour High School.

On Tuesday, Shepherd made sure that became a reality as he signed a letter of intent to play at Hanover College.

“In the middle of my senior I realized high school football doesn’t last forever, so I had to make a decision,” Shepherd said. “Coach (Brice) Darling really helped me with that process, to move forward, to become a better athlete, and choose my school. They (the coaches) helped push me to become a college athlete, and I appreciate that.”

Shepherd said he visited four or five colleges before deciding on Hanover, and he said he chose the Panthers because of the coach and the campus.

“I really like Coach (Matthew) Theobald,” Shepherd said. “He’s a great guy, and I when I went on a visit to the campus it was beautiful. I liked the campus and I like the direction they’re going. It was real easy for me.

“When I went there I had a really good family experience. Everybody knew each-other, everybody was friends and they just wanted to play football.”

Shepherd was an offensive lineman throughout his Seymour varsity career, starting at guard his sophomore and junior seasons before moving to center last fall.

“It was good to switch and see what it was like to play another position,” he said. “I think I enjoyed guard a little bit better, but it was fun seeing how playing center was,” he said, and mentioned he had to be able to take on a defensive lineman as soon as he snapped the ball.

Darling, an assistant football coach, works closely with the linemen on the team.

“(Shepherd) was just a constant worker, a constant leader in the weight room, just showing up every day, and showing what hard work can do for you,” Darling said. “He started as a junior at guard and started as a senior at center, and just showed every day what we expected from our players, and that’s just to come in and work hard, be a great teammate and that’s what Coby is.”

Darling said Shepherd’s blocking assignments changed.

“The first year there were just more drive blocks playing guard, but at center this past year he pulled a little bit more,” he said. “So we would pull him out and around, we’d ‘fold’ him around a guard a lot. One of our biggest plays is blocking down with a guard and folding that center around and getting him out to a linebacker.

“That was one of the biggest things that Coby could do really well is getting to that linebacker, and never stopping his feet and running through that linebacker.”

Shepherd said he took a lot of pride in helping the Owls improve their win totals from 2 to 5 to 8 the past three years.

“All those new coaches we added, they just really turned the program around, and helped turn Seymour back into a program that wins football games,” Shepherd said.

In college, Shepherd said he will continue to play an offensive line position for the Panthers.

He said his playing weight for the Owls last fall was 250, and said his playing weight at Hanover likely will increase.

Darling said he feels Shepherd can definitely contribute at Hanover.

“I think he’s going to be a great teammate, I think he’s going to be a constant worker just like he was here,” Shepherd said. “I think he’ll work hard every day and I think he’ll contribute in whatever way they need him to. He’s kind of that ultimate team guy.”

Hanover was 4-4 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and 4-6 overall in 2016.

Upon graduation, Shepherd will start working towards the fall season.

“(Theobald) is going to be sending me a workout schedule that I’ll do in the summer, and hopefully I’ll get a lot stronger so I can play at the next level,” Shepherd said. “Obviously, everybody is strong so I’ll have to be in the weight room a little bit more.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.