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Effort spiced with talent, that was Gupton

By Staff | Nov 24, 2017

Effort on the football field gets you noticed. A natural talent and a penchant for hitting will get you noticed by opponents, teammates and coaches all over. The “football instincts” to know where a ball carrier or potential pass receiver is going can carry a player past being only a starter and all-conference choice toward being an All-America selection.

At Shepherd, now a country-wide name that carries the considerable influence brought by four undefeated seasons in the last five years, being a four-year starter is rare. Being a 5-foot-10, 212-pound starter as a “true freshman” linebacker is not a routine happening for the highly successful Rams.

James Gupton is never left searching for effort. When he came to Shepherd from North Point High School in Waldorf, Md., Gupton wasn’t the ideal type for a college linebacker. He’s only 5-foot-10, but his effort and drive made him an immediate focal point of the Shepherd coaches looking for impact players right off the high school practice fields.

Few in number are the freshmen not given red-shirt status their first year in college.

Gupton was not only kept off the red-shirt list but he became a starter by the time the Rams opened the 2014 season.

He started all 10 games and was named the Mountain East Conference Freshman of the Year when he was credited with 69 tackles as Shepherd went 8-2 in its 10 games.

Gupton would never lose another regular-season game in his stellar college career.

In 2015, Gupton would miss a number of games in the middle of his sophomore year. Shepherd kept on winning and he came back for the NCAA playoffs that began at home against Indiana (Pa.).

After further playoff wins against Slippery Rock and Grand Valley State, the Rams had reached the national championship game against Northwest Missouri State. Gupton was at his “nose for the ball” best in that Kansas City-based national championship game. He recorded 19 tackles, leaving him with a season-total of 80 stops in only nine games.

In 2016, Shepherd ran off 10 straight wins in its league and then had playoff wins over Assumption, LIU-Post and California (Pa.) before falling in the national semifinals to North Alabama.

As one of the Shepherd captains this past season, Gupton helped preside over still another undefeated season.

In a season-ending loss to Findlay in last week’s playoff game, Gupton had 16 tackles, leaving him with 87 stops on the 11-game season. He completed the year with five sacks from his linebacker spot and also had 13.5 tackles for lost yardage.

He had been healthy enough to start every game in both 2016 and 2017.

As its by-laws stand for now, Gupton will have to wait 10 years to be inducted into Shepherd’s Athletic Hall of Fame, but he is a sure selection to that group when he becomes eligible.

Simply said, Gupton makes plays. He has his most effective games against the most impressive teams on Shepherd’s schedule.

He does it with an unrelenting effort. And “effort” is as valuable an attribute as a football player can have.

Shepherd has been playing football for almost 100 years.

Gupton is one of the 12-best players ever to play for the Rams in that near-century of trying.

He is secure in a group that should include Damian Beane, Dervon Wallace, Dan Peters, Howard Jones, James Rooths, Billy Brown, Wayne Wilson, Ricky Schmitt, Mike Coyle, Jeff Ziemba and Connor Jessop.

Effort, a certain amount of natural talent, football instincts, and more effort made Gupton one of Shepherd’s all-time greats.