Jim's Notebook (SEC Media Days): Sheppard's Eye on the Prize

by Jim Harris  on Wednesday, Jul. 22, 2009 5:33 pm  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

SHEPPARD'S EYE ON THE PRIZE: More than 1,000 people were credentialed for SEC Media  Days here in Hoover, Ala., yet another record-breaking total for the annual late July event that survives as the "kickoff" for football fever. A lot of these folks are just hanging around, such as the play-by-play and color announcers for ESPN who will be calling the games this fall.

The Cotton Bowl is here. First guy we ran into was Cotton Bowl rep Charlie Fiss, a Springdale native and an employee of the Arkansas sports information office back in the days of Lou Holtz. The Cotton Bowl guys were in pink golf shirts. "We wanted to stand out from everybody else," Fiss said.

A little less than half the credentialed crowd are writers, either for newspapers, blogs and Internet sites, or both. They're all looking for a unique angle from the two players that each university sends.

It didn't take long for Malcolm Sheppard's childhood eye injury to become the angle everyone wanted. Sheppard, the senior Arkansas defensive tackle, told a handful of writers standing around his table of taking an arrow through his left eye when he was 7. His 10-year-old brother accidentally hit him, even though their mother had warned them regularly not to play with the bows and arrows, Sheppard said, adding that he doesn't remember much about the incident.

He can see out of his left eye, only his vision is blurry. It doesn't affect his play. He had two surgeries on the eye and anticipates more down the road to restore his vision to 20-20. He wears a shield on his helmet to protect his healthy right eye.

Sheppard's expecting a big year. His off-season target was to hit 290 pounds, and he's at 295, he said Wednesday. It's "healthy" weight this time, rather than the extra pounds he had been asked to put on quickly to compete in the SEC. At 270, he occasionally got by with quickness but was easier to move around. 

This time, Sheppard says, the good weight addition hasn't affected his agility.

WHO DUNNIT? The question of the day for the SEC coaches was: Who failed to vote for  Tim Tebow as the SEC's first-team quarterback? Tebow, Florida's quarterback and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, was one vote shy of a unanimous pick by the league's coaches.

"You guys are going to go through every one of us until you nail it down," Kentucky's Rich Brooks chuckled as he was the fourth coach asked Wednesday by the print media in the Winfrey Hotel ballroom. Arkansas' Bobby Petrino, Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen all were convincing in claiming they voted for Tebow. Mullen was Tebow's position coach at Florida.

Petrino said Tebow does it al and will be a first-round NFL draft pick. Mullen, asked to pick out Tebow's weaknesses, changed the direction of that question by responding, "What I think is special about Tim is that when you point out a weakness, he will work as hard as he can to correct."

So, four coaches down, all with a "Tebow" vote, and eight more to be quizzed. Why do we have a feeling the coach in question is one with perhaps the second-best quarterback in the SEC. And the second-best quarterback in our opinion is Ole Miss' Jevan Snead.




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