HOUSTON — An exclamation point was added to the end of Texas’ 2019 recruiting class on Wednesday afternoon when Houston North Forest offensive tackle Javonne Shepherd signed his letter of intent with Texas and made his decision public at Delmar Stadium in front of friends, family and a herd of media members.
The early signing period erased the luster of national signing day. Texas’ 24-man recruiting class was signed and delivered by Dec. 21 outside of five-star athlete and USC transfer Bru McCoy. The anticipation was low. The stakes even more so with the Longhorns sitting with the third-ranked class in the country for the second consecutive season and only one pledge unsigned.
All that remained was Shepherd. The four-star product is the No. 32-ranked player on the Fabulous 55 and the No. 29-ranked tackle in the country. The 6-6, 329-pounder pledged to Texas back in July and was the only commitment not to sign during the early period.
“I wasn’t ready to sign early and Texas understood,” Shepherd said Wednesday. “I wanted to go see what was out there and I’m glad I did.”
Upside is the buzz word for Shepherd. He’s unfairly athletic for a young man his size, posting a sub-5.0 40-yard dash at The Opening Finals the summer before his junior year. He was seen running routes and catching passes from assistant coach Herb Hand at a UT camp that same summer. He’s big, long and possesses fantastic footwork. He’s also not ready to play right away after facing Class 4A competition throughout his prep career.
The offensive line is an investment in the future of a program rather than an immediate profit. Each of the offensive line commits in the 2018 class redshirted as freshmen and Texas hopes to do the same with Shepherd. More time molding his technique with Hand and his body with Yancy McKnight could unlock a future all-conference talent, though.
“It felt like family at Texas. I didn’t find that same family anywhere else,” Shepherd said. “I committed in July for a reason and I know it is the right fit for me. I’m ready to get to work.”
Shepherd flirted with other programs in January, taking official visits to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama before finishing off his visits with a final trip to Austin last weekend. That solidified Shepherd’s commitment and secured an important piece for the future.
Shepherd joins fellow four-star offensive linemen Tyler Johnson and Isaiah Hookfin in the 2019 class. Johnson is the headliner. The Conroe Oak Ridge star ranked No. 5 on the Fab 55 and is already enrolled on campus. Hookfin signed with Texas over Baylor on the last day of the early period.
“Something big is happening in Austin and I’m excited to be there for it,” Shepherd said. “Coach Hand is a great mentor and will help me a lot.”