Former Fort Hays State All-American defensive lineman and current New York Jet Nathan Shepherd returned to Hays on Wednesday, meeting with the FHSU Tiger Club and holding an autograph session for Tiger fans of all ages at Smoky Hill Country Club.

Shepherd, who is gearing up for his second season in the NFL, said he enjoyed the chance to see familiar faces from his three years at Fort Hays and express his gratitude to the community.

“Looking back, there’s so many people, so many stories, so many thank yous to be given that maybe at the time, while I was leaving, I wasn’t able to get done,” Shepherd said. “This helps me just feel better to come back and give back in the way that I can and show my gratitude for everything this town has provided me with.”

While in town, Shepherd, an Ontario native, is being filmed for segments for a piece for TSN, a popular television network in Canada.

“Working with TSN, which is like the Canadian version of ESPN, they wanted to know my story, being a Canadian and representing Toronto and my country and things like that,” Shepherd said. “I said, ‘Hey, you want to know the story, you’ve got to stop by Hays, Kansas.' For three years, this was my bread and butter to make it to where I am right now.”

Shepherd, who was drafted by the Jets in the third round of the NFL Draft following his standout career at FHSU, recorded 15 tackles in his rookie season.

Shepherd said he hopes the path he took to the NFL can provide inspiration for others trying to reach their dreams. 

“I’m looking just to inspire any athlete — or anyone else not necessarily in the quote-unquote perfect spot — to be able make gains and be successful in whatever opportunities they have,” Shepherd said.

Check Friday's HDN for more on Shepherd, including his transition to the NFL and being ready to adjust to a new coaching staff this year.