UBC's Shepley signs with NFL's New York Jets

VANCOUVER – Fourth-year UBC Thunderbirds offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley has signed his first professional contract as a free agent with the National Football League's New York Jets. The six-foot-five, 315 pound Shepley was bypassed in this weekend's NFL draft but quickly inked to a three-year rookie undrafted free agent deal with the club Saturday evening.

In his four years at UBC, Shepley has seen both his impact and profile increase on the national stage as a dominant right tackle that helped the Thunderbirds claim the 2015 Vanier Cup championship while also being recognized as a Canada West all-star in 2017. The 23-year-old arts student from Windsor, Ont., worked out not far from his home town at Eastern Michigan's pro day in late March where he impressed several of the scouts in attendance representing more than 20 NFL teams. Just three days later Shepley would raise even more eyebrows with a standout showing at the Canadian Football League combine in Winnipeg, Man. Shepley put his raw power on display by recording 27 repetitions of 225 lbs. on the bench press, the most of all the combine participants. He also posted the fastest 40-yard time of all offensive lineman with a time of 5.27 seconds, helping him secure the third overall spot in the third and final edition of the top-20 CFL scouting bureau eligible prospect rankings. "I'm ecstatic, it's good to take this step but there's still a lot of work to be done," said Shepley. "I can take a small breath after taking this semester off to work out so hard but I feel like I got a job and now I'm only on probation. I still need to earn my spot." Shepley is thankful for the opportunity and guidance provided by the T-Birds program in helping him take this next step. "UBC taught me to keep my head down and work hard," added Shepley. "When I got to UBC I wasn't the shining star of the program and it's not easy for offensive lineman to get noticed. I asserted myself and hard work paid off in the form of a Vanier Cup win under head coach Blake Nill. My abilities and confidence kept getting stronger from that point forward."

Shepley is six credits shy of earning his degree in English language and creative writing and will look at trying to complete the degree with online courses this summer. That said, he admits his main focus is on becoming a professional football player and earning a roster spot with the Jets. Shepley also revealed that he believes he's more likely to find success at the professional level by moving from right tackle to an interior lineman position, beginning at guard, before seeing an eventual move to centre. Shepley will head to New York later next week to take part in his first rookie minicamp before hoping to make an impact at Jets main training camp in August.

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