By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Differences between Liverpool, England and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could not be more evident. Moving from the seaside center of the Industrial Revolution in Britain to the plains of grain in America’s prairies, the adjustment certainly is a challenge.
But for Callum Shepherd, a striker with NPSL side OKC 1889 FC, the move was worth it and the dream – the pursuit of playing the sport he loves – didn’t change one bit.
Shepherd followed his older brother, Joe, to central Oklahoma. Joe attended school at the University of Sciences and Arts of Oklahoma, where Callum currently plays soccer and studies physical education.
“My brother had come out to Oklahoma for school,” said the 19-year-old. “I basically wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Following a freshman year ended by an ACL injury, Shepherd saw playing action this past year, but in a different position. His college coach moved the longtime center back to forward, almost immediately making an impact when Shepherd scored five goals in five matches.
Similarly, Shepherd has netted a team-leading seven goals and has provided an assist in seven matches with OKC 1889 FC so far this summer. Talking with Shepherd, he certainly wasn’t one to boast about his success, keeping humility first above himself, something truly in character for him.
“Callum is probably one of the most quiet and humble players we have coached,” said OKC 1889 FC head coach Adam Kay. “He has a great attitude at training and a joy to be around. Callum is also a fantastic teammate. When he isn’t scoring he is looking to get other players involved. He has a great future ahead and we are excited he is a part of OKC 1889 FC.”
When it comes to scoring, his college coach noticed that Shepherd was fast and had a strong ability and intelligence to move around the opposing team’s defense. So, the move was made. This also translated to NPSL play for Shepherd.
After such a large positional adjustment, Shepherd says he definitely feels comfortable playing up top as a forward, attributing his success to a devout work ethic on and off the pitch.
“I just work hard, honestly, that’s all that it is,” said Shepherd. “I chase down every ball, get in the box and try to play balls that are passed to me. Any and every team I am on, I work hard.”
The Liverpool native, when asked if he has any role models in the sport, goes back to his England roots noting that Liverpool Football Club’s Virgil van Dijk is one of his favorite players. Shepherd looks up to van Dijk’s composure and overall power as a means to model his own play after.
Playing for OKC 1889 FC this summer has had a positive impact on Shepherd in a variety of ways, including building his confidence as a player before he starts his second collegiate season this coming August. He said that it also has improved his fitness to keep in-form and fresh.
Even when he’s focussing on his own fitness and form, Shepherd feels that his role and mentality with OKC 1889 FC is one where he is a helper.
“My mentality is to see if I can find any way possible to help the team, whether that’s scoring goals or assisting players,” said Shepherd. “I want to help my team as best as I can.”
What’s next for the 19-year-old in the sport of soccer, and in life generally? Shepherd wants soccer to be a part of his job, whether it is professionally or through coaching. Where that could happen, he doesn’t know. But for now, the Liverpool, England forward has his foundation in Oklahoma’s plains.
Photo Credit: Jay Kim