Columbia safeties Kenny Johnson (left) and Daylon Sheppard (right) signed with Allan Hancock Junior College Wednesday morning (photo by JORDAN KROEGER/Lake City Reporter).

Headed to a new breed

Johnson, Sheppard sign with Allan Hancock Bulldogs.

 

They were brothers in Columbia’s secondary this season and they’ll continue that relationship together at the next level.

Columbia safeties Kenny Johnson and Daylon Sheppard signed letters of intent to play football at Allan Hancock Junior College next season in Columbia’s Fieldhouse Wednesday morning.

Johnson and Sheppard were both contacted by Allan Hancock after the season while also exploring other options for college. National Signing Day passed in February, where the two watched seven teammates ink their names for the next level.

The duo remained optimistic, though, hoping their day would come and it finally did a month later.

“I don’t want to say they didn’t get discouraged because it is discouraging when you’re not inking your name in on National Signing Day,” Columbia head coach Brian Allen said. “It does become discouraging, but at the same time, there were opportunities for them but it didn’t make sense financially. If Division III school wants to sign you but they don’t give full scholarships then you’re having to look to pay a little.

“The other side of making it a full is that you either have to take out loans or have parents come up with the other financial part of it, that doesn’t make sense in a lot of instances to go out of state. But when this happens and it’s not such a burden financially, then I think this is what was right and they did as well in inking their names in with this school.”

It’s a new journey out west to Santa Clara, Cal., which is nothing new to Johnson. He transferred from Lafayette to Columbia right before his senior season and didn’t know what to expect.

Turns out, he was taken on the ride of a lifetime in one of Columbia’s greatest seasons ever that ended with a Class 7A final four berth. It triggered an emotional speech from Johnson to his teammates right before he signed.

“I’d like to thank God because me coming over here as a first-year transfer and playing with you all was a big, big change,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know if I was going to fit in or not but I appreciate everything you all did and helped me with. All the teachers, the staff, thank you all. And I love you all.”

Johnson was accepted by his teammates right away due to his work ethic, which earned him a starting spot. He had 64 total tackles and five interceptions that included a pick-six against Bolles.

“He kind of brought himself in. He surprised me,” Sheppard said. “When I saw him make tackles like a linebacker, I knew he could play.”

Sheppard also had a different path of sorts this season after moving from running back to safety. It was a move that was needed to benefit a team that had a surplus of running backs and he didn’t disappoint, recording 95 total tackles, five interceptions and a fumble recovery.

“Him moving over and getting the concept of what we do defensively and being a major player for us this year in the run that we had was tremendous,” Allen said.

Sheppard, as well as Johnson, credited Allen for their success and for helping them reach their dreams.

“He did a lot preparing us for college, working us hard and getting us ready for the next level,” Sheppard said. “He did a good job.”

Johnson says he could play both ways for the Bulldogs at wide receiver and safety while Sheppard expects to play either safety or cornerback.

The duo is also the first from Allen’s tenure to sign with Allan Hancock. They’re just two of many players from this year’s class to be the first at Columbia to sign with a particular school, a list that includes Latrell Williams (Tennessee), Laqavious Paul (Coastal Carolina), Matthew Lee (Albany State) and Joseph Caputo (Averett).

“It’s extending this Columbia family across the country and we’re proud of them,” Allen said.

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