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Lions LB coach Kelvin Sheppard on a mission to prove Dan Campbell right

Detroit Lions linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard has more on his plate in 2023 and full belief from his head coach. Now he’s using that pressure as motivation for success.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Ryan Garza / USA TODAY NETWORK

This year, the Detroit Lions approached linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard about taking on a bigger role, something coach Dan Campbell believed the 35-year-old coach earned over the past two years.

“(Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) and I talked and we felt like it was time to put more on him, especially this year,” Campbell said last week. “I think Shep is a young, promising coach. I think he can be a coordinator one day, and I think he can be a head coach one day. I think he’s got that type of potential, so the time is right.”

It didn’t take long for those words to come back to Sheppard, as his mother is always on top of the latest stories involving her son.

“Just so you know, if y’all ever say anything bad about me, my mom will be the first to see it, and she will be here to talk about it,” Sheppard said on Monday.

(Hi, Mrs. Sheppard. Your son is lovely).

Sheppard is still fairly new to the coaching game—having retired as a Lions player back in just 2018. But since then, he’s been on a meteoric rise. After a year at LSU in the player development program, Campbell came calling to bring Sheppard back to Detroit. He started coaching the Lions’ outside linebackers—a position he had never played. But Coach Shep was up for the challenge.

“When he made me the outside linebackers coach, I never played outside linebacker. I gotta make him right,” Sheppard said. “I gotta show why he had the courage to step out on a leap of faith, so to say, and make me that.”

He earned enough trust that year to become the team’s inside linebackers coach in 2022. And while many were skeptical of the Lions’ linebacker corps going into the season, sixth-round rookie Malcolm Rodriguez became a productive starter and Alex Anzalone enjoyed one of his best career seasons.

Now with more on his plate and a coaching staff that believes in him, Sheppard is, once again, eager to prove them right.

“So just hearing that, seeing that, it makes me want to wake up and go that much harder, because now I’ve got to make him right,” Sheppard said.

This year, Sheppard has a new challenge: develop a highly-drafted player. The Lions took Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick, and the expectation for him is to be the team’s long-term starting MIKE linebacker. But Sheppard warned to not necessarily expect too much too soon from the 22-year-old rookie.

“It does not matter if he went first round. It doesn’t matter,” Sheppard said. “Malcolm went sixth round. That has no tell on the progression of the rookie development. Each guy—and you know I’m honest with y’all—each guy literally is different.”

But obviously, the Lions believe in Campbell and they believe Sheppard is the right guy to help him become a foundational piece of the defense.

“I feel like Shep, the more we put on Shep, the more he answers the call,” Campbell said.

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