Louis Shepherd has watched his son play football for 13 years. He’s analyzed every move Darrius has made since moving to wide receiver in 2010, even broken down film of his games playing for Blue Springs.
The two have sat together on the couch many nights. Watching. Rewinding. Correcting.
But it wasn’t until a single play last October, with Darrius facing rival Blue Springs South, that Louis had an epiphany.
“Oh, my gosh,” he remembers thinking. “I’m watching myself out there.”
Louis sat in the stands that night as Blue Springs South outmuscled his son for a play, maybe two.
Then he saw Darrius fight back. The same way Louis used to during his all-state career at Blue Springs and later at Missouri.
Darrius ignited a Blue Springs’ rout with a 73-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
That’s when it hit his father.
“I have to say that when he scored, it brought a tear to my eye,” Louis said. “When they pushed him, he pushed back. To see your son respond in the manner, to be inspired by that same things that would have inspired me, that’s breathtaking.”
That was last season.
Darrius is at it again.
He will lead Blue Springs into action at 7 p.m. Friday when the Wildcats play host to Rockhurst at Peve Stadium.
Only two weeks into his senior season, Darrius has six touchdowns. He caught four in a 49-14 win at Park Hill South last week. The first one — a 98-yard score in which the final 93 yards came after the catch — on Monday was selected the Hudl national play of the week.
All this comes a year after he was selected to the Missouri Class 6 all-state team. Just like Louis, who in 1991 became the first two-time all-state player in Blue Springs history.
The comparisons with his father — Darrius is quickly finding out — are populating.
The shiftiness. The moves. The burst. And don’t forget the speed.
“People say I’m fast,” Darrius says. “You should watch his tapes. I wish I had his speed.”
Darrius isn’t slow, not by any standard, but Louis was once clocked under 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash while at Mizzou.
People notice that kind of speed. They haven’t always noticed Darrius.
Despite tallying 957 receiving yards and nine touchdowns during the Wildcats’ state championship run last season, Darrius largely flew under the radar. After all, he played alongside junior Dalvin Warmack, who totaled 47 touchdowns.
“We’ve always thought Darrius was underrated, but gosh dang, I don’t know why he would be,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said. “He makes so many great plays that are highlight-type plays. You watch the way he returns a kick, he’s just got that knack that not a lot of people have.”
It was this date last season — a week three trip to Rockhurst — that offered Darrius his breakout game as a return man. He took a kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown.
In a playoff rematch against Rockhurst later last season, Darrius scored on a 70-yard punt return and caught a 57-yard touchdown reception.
“That game really helped me (stand out), and people started seeing that I was a good player,” Darrius said. “You get extra energy when you play Rockhurst. You want to do everything two times harder. The rivalry gets you fired up.”
Darrius hopes to play in college, though he hasn’t settled on a destination yet. He’s been offered scholarships by South Dakota State and Valparaiso.
His father played at Missouri and dreamed of reaching the NFL. Before that, he dreamed of winning a state championship in high school.
Neither happened. Jefferson City twice eliminated Blue Springs deep into the postseason in 1990 and 1991, Louis’ final two seasons.
“I’m happy to share my ring,” Darrius said. “It was a fun experience having him there with me.”
For Louis, too.
“It’s definitely a vicarious experience for me,” Louis says. “I fidget and move along with him every step of the way. I’m right there on the field with him, whether he knows it or not.”