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Sterling Shepard, who lost his dad at a young age, ready to embrace fatherhood

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard runs a route

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard runs a route during OTAs at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 29. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Father’s Day has always been tough for Sterling Shepard. His father, Derrick, who played in the NFL, died in 1999 at the age of 35 from a heart attack. Sterling was only 6 at the time.

“Especially early on, it’s kind of rough on you,” the Giants wide receiver said this past week during minicamp. “You’re 6 years old, you come to school and everybody’s dad shows up. I always had my grandfather, he showed up, so I love him for that, but it’s a little different. It was rough early on, but you kind of get used to it.”

This year, though, Shepard has something to celebrate.

He and his wife, model Chanel Iman, are expecting their first child in August. Although the baby still is about two months away from arriving, that hasn’t stopped Shepard from finally soaking up all the joy that comes from fatherhood on the day when the role is formally recognized and appreciated.

“It’s my time to shine!” he said with a wide grin. “I told Chanel she’d better get me something good.”

In many ways, she is.

“It means a lot,” he said of his new role. “I didn’t have a father growing up, so this is my chance to have a complete family, I guess you’d say. I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got two more months left and it’s going to be a great feeling.”

Asked what kind of father he plans on being, Shepard said simply: “The best one I can be.”

Despite not having his own dad for much of his life, Shepard said he’s had plenty of great role models in that regard, from friends’ fathers to his maternal grandfather.

“He was a great father to my mom and helped me and my sister, so he kind of set the standard for me,” Shepard said. “I’m going to try to follow in his footsteps.”

Two months, in terms of the Giants, puts them in the middle of training camp. In fact, the baby is due the week that the team is scheduled to be in a Detroit suburb participating in joint practices with the Lions.

“I talked to Coach about it a while ago,” Shepard said. “He was like, ‘We’ll see if we can get you a day off or something’ . . . I don’t want to be away from the guys, but that kind of stuff, you have to be there for, that’s for sure.”

That’s just the beginning.

“On game days, I’d see guys like JC [Jonathan Casillas] and guys like JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul], they’d have their babies down there, and that gives you a kind of warm feeling when you see that,” Shepard said. “You get to ball out in front of them. I’m looking forward to that. I can’t wait.”

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