Hurricane hits home for Baker QB ahead of game
By Chuck Woodling
Brian Sheppard wonders about his family's home in suburban New Orleans.
"I think our house may have anywhere from one to three feet of water in it," said Sheppard, Baker University's senior quarterback. "But we don't know. We can't get in."
The Sheppard house, located in Destrehan, is less than a mile from a Mississippi River levee.
Sheppard also wonders about his pickup. Because his vehicle needed mechanical work, he left it behind and rented a van to haul his belongings a few weeks ago to the BU campus.
"The Dodge dealership is closer to town," Sheppard said, "so I figure my truck is under four to five feet of water."
Hurricane Katrina's wrath disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, yet the Sheppards will extract at least one scrap of joy out of their anxious apprehension.
Sheppard's mother and his two teenage sisters will be able to watch him perform in a Baker uniform for the first time Saturday night when the Wildcats play host to Benedictine. Game time is 6 p.m. in Baker's Liston Stadium.
"With all they have going on in high school, I never thought my sisters would ever get to see me play," Sheppard said.
Dad is Saints assistant
Mike Sheppard, Brian's dad, is in his fourth year as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints and was in San Jose, Calif., preparing for a preseason game with the Oakland Raiders when the hurricane struck.
But wife Cathie Sheppard and daughters Shelby and Macall had to evacuate to Lake Charles, La., about 200 miles west of where they lived.
While in Lake Charles, they were in contact with the rest of the family. That's when Brian came up with the idea of them driving this weekend to Baldwin.
"They said they were bored, so I invited them to come up and see me play," Sheppard said.
They arrived Wednesday night and stayed in Lawrence.
"One of the things they were going to do," Sheppard said, "was go see the house where we used to live."
Not that Brian or his younger sisters would remember that Lawrence home. When Mike Sheppard was offensive coordinator at KU during the 1983 season, Brian wasn't quite 2 years old. He was born in Long Beach, Calif., while his dad was offensive coordinator at Long Beach State the year before, then the family returned to Long Beach in 1984 when his dad was named the 49ers head coach.
NFL in 1993
Three years later, Mike Sheppard was hired as head coach at New Mexico. Then in 1993, the elder Sheppard joined the Cleveland Browns and he has been in pro football ever since. The Saints are his sixth NFL stop.
Brian Sheppard played high school football in suburban San Diego and in suburban Seattle. He played college football at Southeastern Louisiana, mostly as a wide receiver, before transferring to Baker prior to the 2004 season.
Sheppard started every game for the Wildcats in '04 with mixed results. He threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he also tossed 26 passes to opponents -- one of the worst interception rates in the NAIA last fall.
BU coach Mike Grossner obviously wasn't happy with Sheppard's propensity for throwing to the wrong team, and he doesn't expect a repeat.
"He's had a nice fall camp," Grossner said. "I don't think he's been distracted by what happened (in New Orleans). I think he felt he had to make things happen last year, but we have more playmakers this year, and he knows he doesn't have to do that anymore."
Sheppard is philosophical about the interceptions.
"They bother me a little bit because they hurt the team," he said, "but if I dwell on it, I can't help the team win. It's like a defensive back being burned. You've got to come right back. You can't dwell on it."
Where to next?
Meanwhile, most of the Sheppard family has to be wondering where it will be dwelling a month from now. Brian knows where he will be in October and November, but his mom, dad and sisters remain in limbo.
The Saints will be setting up shop in San Antonio, but for how long nobody knows. As it stands now, Brian says his mom and sisters will probably go from here to San Antonio for a while, then head for California where they would reside with his maternal grandparents.
Also unknown is when they will be able to return to Destrehan and assess the damage.
"You can replace material things in your house," Sheppard said. "The biggest thing is the stuff you can't get back -- things that matter, like pictures, and all the memorabilia my dad has."