Canadian Nathan Shepherd rockets up draft boards with strong performance at NFL combine

Nathan Shepherd has gone from the assembly line to NFL scouts’ sight lines.

The Canadian defensive lineman from Ajax, Ontario was the lone Canuck at the NFL Combine this year and he put on an impressive performance that has experts raving about his potential.

Shepherd began his collegiate career at Simon Fraser University in 2012 but played just one season for the Clan.

“I wasn’t able to afford to go there anymore. I took some time off, worked for a few jobs. I worked at a plant nursery and in electrical construction, as that’s what my dad does. I worked my way back to Toronto probably in spring 2014,” Shepherd told John Kryk of the Toronto Sun.

Once in Toronto, Shepherd got a factory job.

“It was printing off boxes for beer cartons or pop,” he told Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News at the Senior Bowl in January. “Basically, 12- to 14-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for two weeks, and then switch to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. I’d work out either before or after.”

“Once I had enough saved,” Shepherd said, “Fort Hays (State University) had reached out to me via a junior college that had reached out to me. They basically said, ‘Hey, this kid’s ready to go.’”

Shepherd enrolled at Fort Hays State in time for the 2015 season. He walked on that season, paying for his first semester and earned a scholarship after his first season in Kansas. 2017 saw the powerful defensive lineman make 38 tackles, 12.5 for loss and four sacks, earning Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Defensive Player of the Year and NCAA Division III All-American honours. He was a key piece on the Tigers team that went 11-0 and won its first MIAA Championship.

Because Shepherd missed two seasons, his CFL Draft eligibility passed without him being selected. He was subsequently added to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiation list.

His strong senior season garnered an invite to the Senior Bowl for Shepherd. During the week in Mobile, Alabama he surged up draft boards, despite suffering a hand injury.

An NFL Combine opportunity came next.

Shepherd checked in at six-foot-five, 315 pounds, ran a 5.09 40-yard dash, 4.53 shuttle, broad jumped nine feet, three inches and recorded a 31 inch vertical.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock raved about Shepherd.

“NFL body, NFL movement skills. I’ve had a couple NFL people tell me that he’s actually bigger than Malik Jackson (2017 Pro Bowl defensive lineman), but offers that kind of versatility of inside-outside. He’s a powerful man and very raw. A guy that could affect quarterbacks and the run game,” Mayock said.

“Think about all these linemen we’re now getting from Canada: Akiem Hicks, David Onyemata, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. The blockers and tacklers are coming from north of the border as well,” NFL Network’s Charles Davis added.

Mayock believes Shepherd is a day two pick, which means rounds two and three.

Shepherd will hold his pro day on March 12, another chance in an already-incredible pro journey to move further up the board.