This November, Iona Prep senior quarterback Ajani Sheppard flipped his commitment from Old Dominion to join the Rutgers football team. Sheppard, a productive high school player, will look to give the Scarlet Knights an offensive boost in the coming seasons. Sheppard took the time to interview with The Daily Targum.
Q: With the football season now over and having committed to Rutgers, can you breathe a sigh of relief as you prepare for the next step?
Sheppard: "Yeah, that feels real good. I went through a lot during my recruitment … Now I'm going to Rutgers. I’m signing in a couple of days — it feels amazing."
Q: Both of your older brothers played Division I college football. What's it like having older brothers with that kind of experience, and what is your support system like as a whole?
Sheppard: "With my brother playing in the SEC, it’s really pushed me … I always wanted to be on a stage like that so just seeing him there and succeeding there shows me that I can do it myself. Whenever he got home from college, he always pushed me, and we’re always working out together, so it helps a lot.
"With my support system — my mom, my dad and my brothers — they’re always at every game. My dad is always taking me to all my workouts, my mom is making sure I’m eating good and getting my grades right and my brothers are just teaching me as much football as they can."
Q: Can you walk me through your recruitment process?
Sheppard: "So I was offered by Rutgers the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I went down for a visit … I was there for 12 hours. I was in a QB meeting … I was talking with (head coach Greg Schiano), talking to all the coaches … I went home. I thought about it with my family. I thought about it with my dad. It ultimately came down to (the fact that) it’s always been a goal for me, personally, to play at the highest level that I can, and playing in the Big Ten conference is that opportunity."
Q: What do you think the strength of your game is?
Sheppard: "I think it’s definitely the fact that mentally I never want to give up. I’m going to do whatever I physically can to help my team win. Whether it’s passing or running, I’m going to take whatever the defense gives me. I just want to win."
Q: What are your long-term goals at Rutgers, and what do you feel you can offer to the program?
Sheppard: "(My) long-term goal for Rutgers is I want to help lead them to a Big Ten championship and … I want to go to the (national championship). You know, coming from Iona, when I became the starting quarterback, we always lost in the semifinals and never got to that championship stage. In my junior year, we were able to reach that, and that’s always been my goal since I was a kid. I always wanted to win championships … and that’s my only goal going into Rutgers."
Q: Is there a message you want to send to Rutgers fans to let them know who they’re getting in you?
Sheppard: "You’re getting a hard worker. You’re getting a winner. I’m going to give it my all, no matter what."
While Rutgers is in the offseason now, Sheppard's commitment is one that will spur hope in the hearts of Knights fans as the dream of a successful future becomes closer to reality.
For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.