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Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

WR Kevin Stepherson Working for Shot at NFL

May 1, 2021

Kevin Stepherson put on a show at Irish Invasion in 2015 and then committed to Notre Dame before leaving campus. 

The Florida receiver arrived in South Bend and found immediate success during his first two seasons in the blue and gold. Stepherson recorded 44 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016 and 2017, but the path to being Notre Dame’s next star hit a few roadblocks.

Stepherson battled off the field issues over his career and was arrested multiple times, which led to his dismissal from the school in January of 2018. 

However, the 6-foot-1, 188-pounder isn't done with football and believes he's turned over a new page after a brief stint at Jacksonville State. 

"A lot of people think I have some bad blood with Notre Dame, but that isn't the case at all," Stepherson told ISD. "I truly believe that because of all that stuff, I've become a better man and I've learned so much. 

"I've learned to value my freedom. It has pushed me to grow up and I learned I have a lot to lose. I was just this close to not being able to play football again. It definitely made me value all the opportunities I have in my life." 

The realization of losing the chance to play football hit Stepherson hard and led to some self-reflection. 

"I love this game so much," Stepherson stated. "I couldn't imagine losing it that early. I know it's going to come to an end one day, but that feeling I was about to lose it was big. It forced me to grow up, mature and take advantage of every opportunity I was presented with going forward." 

Stepherson is living in his hometown of Jacksonville and has been on his grind over the last several months as it relates to football. The goal is to hear his name called this weekend or at least sign a free agent contract following the draft. 

"I'm just training every day," stated Stepherson. "My training has shifted focus from Pro Day to being the best receiver I can be." 

The Jacksonville area is littered with quarterbacks looking for receivers and it has allowed Stepherson to get quality reps with NFL arms. 

"There are a lot of quarterbacks in the city right now," Stepherson said. "I've been throwing a lot with Gardner Minshew and some of the Jags quarterbacks.

"I did work out with Ian (Book). He's not in the city now and getting ready for the draft." 

Rick Kimball/ISD
Kevin Stepherson

Book and Stepherson didn't get a lot of work together at Notre Dame, but Stepherson always knew the former Notre Dame signal-caller was going to be successful. 

"When I was there, I wasn't catching a ton of balls from here because I was getting a lot of my balls from (Brandon) Wimbush, DeShone (Kizer) and Malik (Zaire)," Stepherson said. "I definitely see the improvement in him. He's a great quarterback and won a lot of games. 

"I think the biggest thing about him is he's just a winner. He knows how to go out there and win a game. The team just comes out on top and I think that's his strongest asset of being a quarterback." 

Stepherson has been in front of NFL scouts and coaches this spring as he participated in Auburn's Pro Day where he ran 4.66 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vertical and jumped 10'7" in the broad jump. 

Quarterback Mac Jones was short a few receivers for Alabama's Pro Day and called Stepherson to catch passes, which was another opportunity to get in front of scouts. 

"Mac called me up because some of his receivers had injuries," Stepherson explained. "He's from Jacksonville and we ran some routes in high school, so I had caught some balls from him before. 

"He called me on short notice, but I happened to have a rental car at the time and it was a great opportunity for me. I knew it was a great opportunity for him to go out and show what he could do, so we made that happen." 

NFL teams have been in touch with Stepherson and while he doesn't know what the future holds, he hopes one team will give him a shot to prove himself. 

"It means everything to me. I've put in so much work to be the best football player and receiver I can be. It would mean the world to me to hear my name called. I know that if things didn't go the way they did, I would probably have been a day one or day two guy. 

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here right now. It would a dream come true and I'd be overwhelmed with emotion." 

And yes, Stepherson would have zero issues catching passes from new Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. 

"That would be awesome," said Stepherson. "It would be big just to be here around my family. I've been a Jacksonville Jaguars fan my whole life. It would mean everything to me."

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