The call came Tuesday and was entirely unexpected:
“We need anthem singers who are music students at each of the Final Four schools. Could you do it?”
Before sophomore voice major Darius Sheppard could fully process this most unexpected opportunity to perform the national anthem at Saturday’s Final Four in San Antonio, he quickly replied, “I’m only 20. I need to ask my parents. Can I email you tonight?”
Sheppard—a tenor who performed a spine-tingling rendition of the national anthem with fellow students from Michigan, Villanova and Loyola-Chicago before the start of Saturday evening’s first game in the packed Alamodome—laughs when he recalls the reply he heard from the NCAA official: “OK, but instead of emailing tonight, can you call back in five minutes?”
Sheppard immediately phoned his parents, and, permission secured, on Wednesday booked his flight and on Thursday arrived in San Antonio, thrilled to represent KU on the biggest stage on collegiate athletics.
“It’s been an amazing week, absolutely incredible,” Sheppard said, shaking his head and smiling broadly. As he returned his attention to the first half of the Michigan-Loyola game, playing out just a few yards from his floor-level seat, Sheppard grinned and shouted over the crowd, “Rock Chalk!”