After three days of back and forth rumors about whether or not Tee Shepard was staying or leaving, we finally have a conclusive answer. Ole Miss released statements from Shepard and Hugh Freeze on Wednesday afternoon confirming that the cornerback is walking away from the team but will remain on campus to finish his degree.
Here's Shepard's statement:
The injuries and challenges I have overcome the last few years have taken away my love for playing the game of football. I want to thank Rebel Nation for the support they have shown me in my time here. I want to especially thank Coach Freeze for showing me what unconditional love is like. I will always love this team and cheer them on as they compete for a championship. I look forward to completing my degree from Ole Miss and beginning the next phase of my life.
And here's Freeze's:
While we had hoped Tee would continue playing, he has chosen to conclude his career and focus on finishing his degree here at Ole Miss. We respect his decision and wish him the very best. He will always be a part of our family, and we hope he continues to use his platform to impact others.
The fact that he's staying in school at Ole Miss is worth noting because 1) that's awesome and 2) it wipes away the rumors that his frustration was geared towards the coaching staff for not playing him. Tee went on a minor retweeting tantrum in the aftermath of the Florida loss, raising concerns over the fact that he spent much of the game posted on the sideline. But he's not transferring out to another program, he's walking away from the sport altogether.
Which is a bummer of an end to what was such an inspiring story of perseverance just a couple months ago. Shepard was poised to not only become a starting corner for the Rebs, but one of the best corners in the SEC. But it seems that his hearing impairment was just too much of an obstacle.
Kendarius Webster overtook Shepard as the starting corner during fall camp, and Shepard's role had been surprisingly minimal through the first five games.
Then came Freeze's explanation on Monday:
He's really struggled in getting the checks. In that kind of environment, [Florida] used a lot of shifts and a lot of motion. A lot of teams have been doing that to us. It has nothing to do with his physical skills. When they do that, we have to make a check, and that is very difficult for him.
With the games that we are playing, it's much easier to play at home than on the road. That is an issue for him. While all of us hate that, there is part of that to it. If there is any short motion or shift, he has to look back to see it. And when you turn around, all of a sudden, the ball is snapped. So that has been an issue for us.
This is another disheartening blow for an Ole Miss team that could really use some good news, but more importantly, it's a heartbreaking outcome for a guy who put a lot of effort into overcoming his limitations. But let's not act like the dude is dead or anything. He's going to finish his degree and undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him. It just won't be on a football field.