Starting for Riders helped Canadian OL Dakoda Shepley earn shot with San Francisco 49ers

Canadian offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley went from property of the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a member of the San Francisco 49ers in less than two weeks.

After the CFL board of governors voted to cancel the 2020 season, Shepley opted out of his contract and there was immediate NFL intrigue. He chose to workout for the 49ers over other inquiries and it led to the 25-year-old earning a practice squad spot in San Francisco.

“Most players spend so much time, money, and resources in the off-season making sure they’re ready to play football. When you’ve invested so much of yourself in the off-season, to not have a football season after all of that, you’d be crazy not to go down every road possible to make sure you play football at the end of it,” Shepley said on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“The Riders were really great in doing everything by the book. Sure it could’ve been earlier which would have given guys who opted out more time to find work, but it worked out for me. You never know what could happen, guys could get injured, could test positive for coronavirus. Staying ready, that’s all you need to do.”

Shepley played four seasons at the University of British Columbia (2014-2017), starting 31 of 32 regular season games. While at UBC, Shepley lined up at left tackle and right guard, earning Canada West All-Star honours in 2017. He played in the 2017 U Sports East-West Bowl and was part of the Thunderbirds 2015 Vanier Cup championship team.

At the 2018 CFL combine, Shepley repped 225 pounds 27 times on the bench press, ran a 5.15 hand-time 40-yard dash, 4.72 shuttle, 8.01 three-cone, recorded a 31-inch vertical and eight-foot, 9.5-inch broad jump. Those athletic numbers led to Shepley inking a deal with the New York Jets after going unselected in the 2018 NFL draft.

However, the Windsor, Ontario native was cut following training camp that year and spent the rest of the season awaiting another NFL opportunity. Shepley was a first-round pick of the Riders in the 2018 CFL draft. He signed with the team in March 2019 and started 14 games at right guard last season, winning the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie award.

“Coming out of UBC going straight to the NFL was a huge learning curve, one that, admittedly in hindsight now, I was way underprepared for because it’s such a jump,” Shepley said.

“I really did need a year of professional football under my belt, playing a full season, understanding how to play like a pro, prepare like a pro, live like a pro. It really helped me I feel now where I am as far as a football player and my maturity level on and off the field.”

Fresh film renewed NFL intrigue in Shepley and led to the athletic lineman earning a shot with San Francisco. He was able to impress the 49ers decision-makers, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch enough in less than a week of practices to show he belonged.

“That was my mindset going in with the opt out clause, I didn’t really know what was going to come from the opt out, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Finding a way to play football at the end of a long off-season,” Shepley said.

The six-foot-four, 310-pound O-lineman had been working on his technical skills as a blocker with Duke Manyweather in Dallas, Texas. He’s a noted offensive line guru and Shepley was the first Canadian player he agreed to tutor. Amid the coronavirus crisis, Shepley was safely working to ensure he was ready for the next opportunity to play football.

“I’m going to do whatever they tell me to do. Right now they have me playing centre, I’ve fully embraced it. It’s great for me because I’m learning the playbook at an accelerated rate, it’s really coming at me quick,” Shepley said.

“I’m taking everything they’re throwing at me and any way that I can help this team, that’s what I’m here to do. I’m making sure that I put in as many hours as possible to make sure I have a job at the end of it.”