Russell Shepard making most of opportunity for Bucs

Receiver Russell Shepard pulls in a 22-yard touchdown pass in the Bucs' second preseason game of 2015. Brian Blanco/AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Shepard was smiling as he spoke to reporters Wednesday. But that hasn't always been the story of his NFL career.

"I remember on draft day, I cried," Shepard said. "It was a sad thing not to hear your name called."

Shepard went undrafted out of LSU, largely because teams weren't sure if he fit as a wide receiver or a defensive back.

"Prior to the draft, it was really 50-50 on whether I was going to be a defensive back or a receiver," Shepard said. "Actually, [Tampa Bay general manager] Jason [Licht] recruited me as a defensive back when he was at Arizona."

Licht and the Bucs are happy Shepard is a receiver these days. With starter Mike Evans suffering a hamstring injury, Shepard got more playing time and made the most of it. He had two catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in Monday night's victory against Cincinnati. Shepard also ran for 12 yards on a reverse.

Consider that an indication Shepard can be more than a special teams player. But Shepard knows that special teams are what have kept him in the NFL so far.

"It's brought me my whole NFL career at this point," Shepard said. "I came in as a guy that was kind of raw at the position. A lot of NFL teams didn't know which position I would play, whether it was the offensive side or the defensive side. Special teams gave me the opportunity to find my niche and I'm going to continue to try to keep growing and do my part to make plays for this team."

Shepard will continue to play special teams. But, with Evans out for the remainder of the preseason, he's going to get a chance to prove he belongs as a receiver. He could have a chance to end up as the third or fourth receiver, which would be a big step up from being nothing but a special teams player.

"That's just how it has to be as an undrafted guy," Shepard said. "Sometimes you get overlooked. I feel like, in my case, they were just waiting for me to show that I am ready to make a play. Throughout camp and OTAs, I've been able to get the trust of the people upstairs. I just want to continue to keep making plays if my number is called."