fbpx
Favorites

© 2022 BVM Sports. Best Version Media, LLC.

Favorites

Ajani Sheppard: From one year starter to Old Dominion commit

Ajani Sheppard: From one year starter to Old Dominion commit
The 2021 MaxPreps and Lower Hudson New York High School Football Player of the Year committed to Old Dominion on June 27, choosing the Monarchs over Bowling Green State (Courtesy: @ajani_sheppard/Twitter)

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (BVM) – Having grown up with two future college football players as older brothers, Ajani Sheppard, the senior quarterback from Iona Preparatory High School, has been driven from an early age.

Ajani’s brother, Qaadir, was a Class 2A all-state selection during his senior season with the Gaels. That success would lead to him playing for Syracuse and Ole Miss from 2015-2019, finishing with 83 total tackles. After his college career, he was invited to the 2020 NFL Combine.

Ajani’s other brother, Aaqil, is an outside linebacker that played at Urbana and is currently playing for the Bismarck Bucks of the Indoor Football League.

Ajani said that his older brothers always pushed him to be better as a player. Along with their mentorship, Ajani wanted to be a quarterback from the moment he picked up a football.

“If I had to choose, it would be because of the pressure that comes with being a quarterback,” Ajani said. “I feel like I strive under pressure.”

Ajani’s hardworking attitude was on full display during the offseason before his junior year. Being a backup his first two seasons behind Darius Wilson caused Ajani to not garner any Division I interest. 

With the starting gig his, Ajani began studying film that head coach Joe Spagnolo would give him to help him better perform in the offense.

It was during that time that Ajani began working with Phil and Matt Simms at their Simms Complete QB development in New Jersey. Getting to work with two former NFL quarterbacks, one who was a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXV MVP, helped the prospect improve all-around.

“They changed my throwing motion, checked my technique and everything,” Ajani said. “I was asking a lot of questions and learning from them. They really helped me get to where I’m at physically and mentally.”

Ajani was also invited to the John F. Kennedy HS-NJ Prospect Combine on April 24, 2021 and the All-New York Showcase on May 23. His potential was put on full display at the second event, finishing with a 6.7 score. He would also be active in the weight room, finishing the summer benching 265 and deadlifting 455 pounds.

With the amount of work put into the offseason, the junior would go on to have a season for the ages.

After losing the first game of the season to Don Bosco Prep 21-7, Ajani helped lead Iona to 11 straight wins, a Catholic High School Football League Class 3A championship and a New York Catholic High School state championship.

The first-year starter’s dual-threat ability was put on full display, as he became the first player in Westchester County history to have over 2,000 passing yards (2,357) and over 1,000 rushing yards (1,041) in a season. He would also complete 71% of his passes, throw 22 touchdowns and run for 16 more.

Ajani’s best performances were saved for last. In the two championship games, the CHSFL championship offensive most valuable player contributed eight combined touchdowns, including five in a 49-15 win over Monsignor Farrell in the first game.

The dual-threat quarterback became the first player in Westchester County history to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards (Courtesy: Ajani Sheppard)

Ajani’s play on the field led to him being named the 2021 MaxPreps and LOHUD New York High School Football Player of the Year, the Catholic High School Football League Offensive Player of the Year and a first team all-state selection.

For all the success Ajani had during the season, it all culminated in him getting his first Division I offer to Connecticut on Dec. 14. It was a crazy feeling for the junior, but he said he wasn’t going to let it get into his head.

“I was really excited, but I didn’t really let it get to me because I was being realistic with myself,” Ajani said. “I still got to prove myself and keep working. That scholarship can be taken away as fast as it was given.”

Ajani’s recruitment began ramping up in the following months. Most notably, he started receiving offers from Army, Air Force, Bowling Green State, Old Dominion and Navy. He also would garner interest from Vanderbilt, Kansas and Rutgers.

During his June 5 visit to Vanderbilt, the gym rat clocked in a 4.53 40-yard dash.

Along with racking up scholarships, Ajani would receive an invite to the Elite 11 D.C. Regional from May 23-26. 

The prospect would show out, starting the weekend with a 4.73 laser 40 and 36.5 medical ball toss. By the end of the weekend, he would finish as the 6th-best out of 70 quarterbacks with a score of 93.90.

Having competed against the best quarterbacks, Ajani said the experience was rewarding for his progression.

“It showed me where I was at,” Ajani said. “The coaches really taught me a lot. It started with little things, like helping me throw off my back foot more. I can launch the ball a bit further and get more power.”

“They told me where to improve at because there were some little things that other quarterbacks were better than me at. I’m working on them as we speak.”

In total, Ajani received 16 Division I offers. By the end of June, Ajani narrowed down his college decision to two schools: Old Dominion from the Sun Belt Conference and Bowling Green from the Mid-Atlantic Conference. After making official visits to each school on June 22 and 24, respectively, Ajani said they stood out among the rest.

“Their level of competition set them apart,” Ajani said on June 25. “I’ve been looking at them and it’s pretty even between the both of them. It has been pretty hard to make a decision.”

It would not take long after for Ajani to decide where home was at, committing to the Old Dominion Monarchs on June 27.

The Monarchs went from 1-11 in 2019 to 6-7 and were bowl-eligible for the second time in school history in 2021. 

Head coach and former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne has had experience in coaching a dual-threat quarterback in Trace McSorley. With this in mind, the future commit said the fit felt right.

“I chose Old Dominion because their offense was perfect for me,” Ajani said. “I felt really comfortable in that environment.”

Ajani had come a long way from not starting his first two years. Despite still not being ranked on Rivals or 247Sports in particular, he worked to become New York’s top football player last year.

Now, he will be playing Division I football just like older brothers before him.

At the Elite 11 D.C Regional last month, with a 4.73 laser 40 and 36.5 medical ball toss, Ajani finished 6th among 70 quarterbacks at the event with a score of 93.90. (Courtesy: Ajani Sheppard)

Originals

more
Jack Sanborn: Can the Wisconsin LB contribute to the Chicago Bears?

Jack Sanborn: Can the Wisconsin LB contribute to the Chicago Bears?

Jack Sanborn was a main contributor on a Wisconsin Badgers defense that was continuously one…

Brent Venables: Can new Sooners HC continue OU’s success?

Brent Venables: Can new Sooners HC continue OU’s success?

After 26 years as an assistant under the likes of Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops and…

Wyatt Davis continues to provide opportunities for young QBs

Wyatt Davis continues to provide opportunities for young QBs

Wyatt Davis found it through different experiences and endeavors to become a DI quarterback.

Canadian Jacob Zibin’s path to an MLB-record draft bonus

Canadian Jacob Zibin’s path to an MLB-record draft bonus

To secure the youngest talent available at the 2022 MLB Draft, the Cleveland Guardians paid…

Ken Griffey Jr., Sr. play catch before ‘Field of Dreams’ game

Ken Griffey Jr., Sr. play catch before ‘Field of Dreams’ game

Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. got their moment at the “Field of Dreams,” enjoying…

Mathias Barnwell finds fit with Penn State, ‘Tight End U’

Mathias Barnwell finds fit with Penn State, ‘Tight End U’

Riverbend senior tight end Mathias Barnwell wants to bring a well-rounded game with him to…

UNC baseball recruit Walker Jenkins driven to be the best

UNC baseball recruit Walker Jenkins driven to be the best

Walker Jenkins has worked to become one of baseball’s best prospects.

Jim Nantz’s rise to sports broadcasting legend at CBS

Jim Nantz’s rise to sports broadcasting legend at CBS

Jim Nantz is now one of the biggest faces in sports media, but how did…

Kaveion Keys bringing winning pedigree to Power 5 level

Kaveion Keys bringing winning pedigree to Power 5 level

Kaveion Keys is one of the top Class of 2023 recruits in Virginia and aims…

Amir Herring ready to be a ‘Michigan Man’

Amir Herring ready to be a ‘Michigan Man’

Amir Herring has the potential to be one of Michigan's next great prep football prospects.

5 athletes who went viral on TikTok for their shock factor

5 athletes who went viral on TikTok for their shock factor

Here's a list of five athletes who've gone viral on TikTok.

Is Matt Rhule on the hot seat?

Is Matt Rhule on the hot seat?

After back-to-back five win seasons, Matt Rhule needs to show major improvement in year three…

10-year-old Rudolph Ingram drawing comparisons to Tyreek Hill

10-year-old Rudolph Ingram drawing comparisons to Tyreek Hill

At just 10 years old, RB Rudolph Ingram is being compared to Tyreek Hill and…

Ty Doucette looks to become next Canadian baseball star

Ty Doucette looks to become next Canadian baseball star

As an Oregon State commit, Ty Doucette is on his way to becoming the next…

Better Chelsea star: Roy Kent or Christian Pulisic?

Better Chelsea star: Roy Kent or Christian Pulisic?

Christain Pulisic starred in a commercial that also featured famed fictional footballer Roy Kent from…

Matt Carpenter enjoying career resurgence with Yankees

Matt Carpenter enjoying career resurgence with Yankees

With last year looking like the end of Matt Carpenter’s career, the current Yankees slugger…

Quinn Ewers ready to showcase talent despite Arch Manning buzz

Quinn Ewers ready to showcase talent despite Arch Manning buzz

With top-ranked recruit Arch Manning announcing his commitment to Texas this summer, eyes have turned…

Willson Contreras trade from Cubs doesn’t happen: What now?

Willson Contreras trade from Cubs doesn’t happen: What now?

Despite expectations he would be moved, Chicago Cubs' catcher Willson Contreras was not traded before…

Mike McCarthy facing pressure to get Cowboys over the hump

Mike McCarthy facing pressure to get Cowboys over the hump

Mike McCarthy is one of eight active head coaches with a Super Bowl championship to…

Juan Soto, Josh Bell trade: What it means for Padres, Nats

Juan Soto, Josh Bell trade: What it means for Padres, Nats

Here is everything you need to know about the trade that sent Juan Soto and…