Credit: Contributed

For NFL rookies, the regimen, expectations, competition and requisite professionalism can be overwhelming. The Giants’ 23-year-old wide receiver Sterling Shepard is experiencing the necessary indoctrination that will determine whether he evolves into a mainstay of the team’s receiving corps or whether he has a brief and inconsequential term with the franchise.

The former is his likely destination. Shepard, the Giants’ second-round pick, the 40th overall selection in April’s draft, has been impressive during the early stages of training camp. With the tenuous status of veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz, who remains on an arduous path of recovering from multiple debilitating injuries to being on the eventual 53-man roster, Shepard’s importance to the Giants’ success is pronounced.

The first-year pass catcher from the University of Oklahoma, commonly known as OU, has spent many years preparing for this opportunity, motivated by the memories of his late father Derrick. The elder Shepard was a walk-on for the Oklahoma Sooners and produced a solid collegiate turn at wide receiver from 1983 to 1986, amassing 75 catches for 1,221yards and eight touchdowns in an offense built on a dynamic running attack under legendary head coach Barry Switzer.

“He was the best walk-on we ever had, I promise you,” Switzer said to the OU Daily last fall. “Derrick was a great player, big-play guy and great leader. He was good enough to play everywhere he went. Better than that, he was such a good person.”

In 1985 Derrick earned a national championship as the Sooners finished their season 11-1 and ranked No. 1. Tragically, in 1999, Derrick, at the young age of 35, died of a heart attack while on the coaching staff at the University of Wyoming.

Two decades later, Shepard honored Derrick by wearing a No. 3 Sooners jersey, the same number as his father’s, and became one of the best wide receivers in school history, totaling 233 receptions for 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Now Shepard seeks to translate his ample skills to the pros, a vastly more challenging level of play. He has been documenting his journey on a blog posted on the Giants official website.

“I definitely get hyped before games, but I was pretty calm on Friday,” Shepard wrote of his emotions a week ago before his first game as a Giant, a 27-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the pre-season opener for both teams.

“I was excited. It was my first time putting on the New York Giants logo and representing the team in a game,” Shepard reflected. “I feel like college kind of helped me with preparing for that moment. Playing in front of 85,000 at Oklahoma, some would say I had a lot of pressure on me. Just all that kind of comes naturally.”

The Giants have deeply invested in the belief that Shepard will indeed be a natural.