EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is known in the New York Giants locker room as Young Shep to most of his teammates. "Young Shep" is a pretty good football player coming off an encouraging rookie campaign and trying to take his game to the next level. He also happens to be the main character of a new children's book written by his sister, Ashleigh.
The book, titled "The Adventures of Young Shep: Young Shep Saves the Game," is based off a short story written by Sterling Shepard when he was in second grade. Ashleigh and her mom, Cheri, found the original two years ago in the family's garage. It inspired Ashleigh to write an expanded version with the help of her younger brother.
After a year of work, the children's book was recently released with Sterling Shepard as a co-author. He admittedly was more a consultant.
"I kind of helped her out writing it a little bit," said Shepard, who offered ideas and suggestions along the way. "It turned out really good."
The book is reminiscent of Young Shep. They're both football players who had to cope with the loss of their father.
Even the illustrations are based off a picture the family has of Shepard as a kid, missing one of his front teeth while wearing a green football uniform.
"It's pretty accurate," Shepard said.
Ashleigh said when he saw the final product with the illustrations she could see that it hit him hard. Shepard didn't cry, but his sister could tell it touched him a little.
"Young Shep Saves the Day" is about a boy who finds a pair of magic shoes yet manages to win the championship football game without them. He invokes the wise words of his deceased father to help him during a trying moment in the championship game.
It was important for Ashleigh to make Young Shep the children's book character deal with the loss of his father just as they did when they were growing up. Sterling was 6 years old at the time -- Ashleigh was 9 -- when their father, Derrick, died of a heart attack in 1999.
"My hope was that [the book] could provide comfort to any child that has lost a parent," Ashleigh said. "I think we did that without making it too sad. But I did touch on it."
The Shepards think combining football and reading will make children interested in the book. They know firsthand that it's not easy to get kids willing to sit, read and learn.
After the death of her father, Ashleigh was tasked with tutoring her brother and younger sister, Shelby, when they were in elementary school. She found it difficult to keep Sterling's attention. He was a better football player than student.
"I'd go over reading assignments, spelling work and all his homework and he couldn't find a book that he was interested in that would hold his attention," Ashleigh said. "So I decided to write a book geared toward young boys in hopes that it could hold their attention."
And so she helped turn Young Shep into a children's book character. Sterling thought it was a good idea and was completely on board.
"Really, I give the credit to my sister," Sterling Shepard said. "She worked really hard at it. It's mainly all her. She would ask me some of the stuff; what to throw in, how to go about telling the story. I just gave my two cents when it came to that, but she was the mastermind.
"It's really good."