It happens every year on HBO's Hard Knocks: an unheralded player emerges as a star of the show. This year, at least in the season premiere next Tuesday, it might be a coach.
No, not Dan Campbell -- though you can certainly expect the Lions head coach to produce a few viral moments. (He's already produced one.) And not assistant head coach Duce Staley either. Shannon Furman, veteran director of Hard Knocks, is digging a little deeper into the staff.
"I don’t know exactly who is going to be the breakout character. I can tell you someone that I was impressed with this week," Furman told the Stoney & Jansen Show. "On the whole coaching staff, you know Duce is going to be great, you know Aaron Glenn is great, but Kelvin Sheppard has impressed me this week. I was able to do an interview with him and just hear his story and where he’s come from and even watching and listening to his wires on the field, that’s someone who’s stood out to me so far."
Sheppard, 34, is in his second season as the Lions linebackers coach. He's also one of several former players on Campbell's staff. He spent eight years in the NFL, his career concluding with the Lions in 2018. He was the director of player development at his alma mater LSU before returning to Detroit last year.
With linebacker maybe the most scrutinized position on the Lions roster in training camp, it makes sense that Sheppard would wind up in the spotlight.
"As far as players go," said Furman, "I don’t know if this is a secret, Amon-Ra (St. Brown) has been great. We’re excited to tell his story. Whether that will happen in Show 1 or not, I don’t know because we have a lot of coaches to go through and things like that, but he’s been really good to us. He’s a fiery player who we’re excited to tell his story."
Same goes for second overall pick and Dearborn native Aidan Hutchinson, who made headlines earlier this week when Campbell revealed the rookie sang Michael Jackson's Billie Jean in front of the team as part of his rookie hazing.
"It’s pretty safe to say, especially after that, that he is going to be featured in Show 1," said Furman. "You’ll see all of that getting into Show 1. We obviously realize he’s a popular person here at camp so we want to make sure he’s able to focus on the things he needs to do for his career, but you’re definitely going to see Aidan throughout the summer, starting with Show 1."
As for Campbell himself?
"He’s probably one of the most authentic, if not the most authentic coach I’ve ever been around," said Furman. "I know it’s only been a little over a week so far, but he’s just a normal guy who clearly cares about football and cares about people. I’m excited to tell his story, too, and to give people more than what they’ve seen just in press conferences and things like that."
Furman said there was a moment in a post-practice huddle earlier this week during which she "got emotional in a way I’ve never gotten."
"This is my 8th year on location doing this. There are certain times you hear things and you just know, that’s going to be in the show. You get a feeling, you know what (the audience) is expecting at this point. The energy in the meetings room, some of the coaches' speeches to the team, it’s been awesome," she said.