RENTON — For all Dakoda Shepley knew, Omega Red was the name of a football play.
Having already dabbled a little bit in movie acting while attending and playing offensive line for the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, which as he notes is often referred to as “Hollywood North,’’ Shepley found himself cast as an extra in the movie Deadpool 2.
As he tells it: “When I went in and they took the picture of me to remember what I looked like for the fitting of the costume and the make-up and everything, I got a call from the casting director of the movie. He said, ‘Hey Dakoda, we like the way you look. We’re going to upgrade your role to someone kind of special in the movie. We can’t really tell you.’ When I found out it was Omega Red, which I’m sure you know, there was people who were working on the movie that were like ‘You’re Omega Red? I’ve been a Marvel fan my whole life.’ I had no idea or pay attention to any of that.’’
So that’s how Shepley found himself fighting in what was the ninth-highest grossing film of 2018.
Three years later, he now finds himself fighting for playing time with the Seattle Seahawks.
Shepley, listed at 6 feet 5, 317 pounds, was claimed off waivers from the 49ers on Wednesday and as of now is Seattle’s third-team center behind Kyle Fuller and Ethan Pocic.
But the way coach Pete Carroll portrayed it, Shepley could be a quick mover. In other words, Carroll says the Seahawks thought he looked really good on film — and not the Deadpool 2 kind.
“Really, really liked him at center,’’ Carroll said. “We were surprised he was available as we watched him. Our guys did a really good preseason evaluation on him. As it came down to (the claiming period) he was really one of our favorite guys. Shoot if he didn’t show up for us. We were very fortunate to get him.”
And while his acting career is an unmistakably fun story in his life tale, Shepley makes clear he’s a football player first.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Shepley turned to football in high school after suffering a hand injury playing hockey that he has said made him re-evaluate his future in that sport.
He then started for all four years at UBC from 2014-17, where he was an arts major.
It was at UBC that the acting began, as something of a lark.
“They filmed quite a few things on my campus,’’ he said this week. “How I got my foot in the door was I was sitting in my locker room and a film crew came through, and they were taking pictures of my locker room for a set. I was like ‘Hey are you guys filming a movie?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah. Do you want to be in it?’ I was like ‘Yeah, sure.’ And it ended up being a Hallmark movie. I was just an extra. My grandma loved that I was in a Hallmark film. I was just a football player extra. It was like a football movie. But once you do something like that where you get put into a database, brown hair, 6-4, whatever it is, they’ll just look for whatever they’re looking for.’’
That led to being a body double for a Netflex film, and then Omega Red.
But rather than being part of the supporting cast in a movie, Shepley wants to be the center of attention on an NFL field.
After spending camp with the New York Jets in 2018 but being cut before the season, he returned to Canada in 2019 and started 14 games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, listed as a left guard.
When COVID-19 cancelled the CFL’s 2020 season — allowing him to opt out of his contract — he returned to the NFL and signed with the 49ers. He spent most of the year on the practice squad but played special teams in one game against Dallas.
At the end of the season, he said 49ers offensive-line coach Chris Foerster told him, “‘You’re a center.’ I trusted his judgment and he’s a great coach. I took him seriously.”
So, Shepley said he spent the offseason watching as much film about center play as he could, and practicing his snaps as often as he could.
“Ever since last season, I’ve been teaching myself and learning how to snap, read the defense like a center should,’’ he said. “ … I can’t count how many times I’ve sailed a ball or skipped it off the ground. Really honing in on that and being able to make my calls while I’m doing it was a challenge. But I think I overcame it and showed it in the preseason. That’s why I’m here. I figured it out, put in the work, and it’s working out.”
Shepley played 96 snaps in three preseason games with the 49ers, 70 at center. And it was those 70 that most impressed the Seahawks, who, uh, snapped him up when they saw he was available on waivers.
As practice began Thursday, he practiced snaps with new quarterback Jake Luton, the Seahawks having acquired a new center-quarterback combo overnight.
How quickly he can move up the depth chart behind the duo of Fuller and Pocic — who each are in their second year playing center for the Seahawks — is hard to tell just yet.
But he’s hoping that soon, he’s making a name for himself.
As he talked to Seattle media members this week, Shepley good-naturedly recalled a brush with fame he had during his Deadpool 2 experience.
“So I told you I went in to do the fitting for my costume, they had to do hair and makeup,’’ he said. “So I went and got my hair cut between T.J. Miller, who’s like his sidekick in the movie, and Ryan Reynolds. I just showed up and I’m getting my hair cut between two pretty prominent actors in Hollywood at the time, still with Ryan Reynolds. When I went into makeup, I’m sitting there holding a picture – they’re taking a picture with my name and I’m holding like I’m doing a mug shot. This jacked old guy kind of walks past me and says, ‘Dakoda Shepley,’ and I’m like ‘How did he know?’ It ended up being Josh Brolin. I recognized him, but I didn’t figure it out until after.’’