The first big time athlete to give Outside the Redzone an interview, Minnesota Vikings’ defensive back Marcus Sherels, scored his first career touchdown on Sunday in a 20-13 win over the Detroit Lions.
With Minnesota leading the Lions 13-6 in the third quarter, Sherels returned a Nick Harris punt 77 yards to give the Vikings a 20-6 lead. Sherels is still little known among football fans outside of the state of Minnesota. But Sunday’s punt return for a touchdown may go a long way toward changing that.
There is no doubt that the NFL continues to peak in popularity. With fans crowding the bars on Sunday to watch their teams, up-to-the-minute fantasy stats and a whole television network committed to the NFL 24 hours, professional football has never been more popular. But with huge signing bonuses for rookies, lockouts, holdouts, replacement officials, and more player arrests, many older fans have become somewhat disenfranchised with the league or at least, the modern player. But Sherels remains an example of all that is right with professional sports in America today.
During high school, neither Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame nor Alabama was knocking on Sherels’ door. In fact, Sherels was not even initially given a scholarship to his Alma mater Minnesota. After walking on at Minnesota as a wide receiver, Sherels eventually moved to defensive back where he recorded four interceptions in two seasons. Sherels was undrafted, but worked hard and was signed to the practice squad of his hometown team, the Minnesota Vikings.
On the final Sunday of the 2010 regular season, Sherels made his NFL debut in a loss to the Detroit Lions. Following the season, Sherels once again had to battle for a roster spot. Generously listed at 5’10″ and 175 pounds, nothing has come easy for the 25-year-old and every year, it seems that he has to fight to keep a roster spot on his own team. But while Sherels is still looking for his first regular season interception, his ability to return punts has kept him in the league and in Minnesota.
As I spoke to him in April of last year, I could tell that Sherels didn’t have a complex about not being given a scholarship straight out of high school or going undrafted. Instead, he just wanted to work hard and to be treated like everyone else. While their stories don’t get much attention, there are a lot of guys in the NFL with stories much like that of Sherels. Sherels’ 77-yard punt return for a touchdown on Sunday could wind up being a career defining moment and is without a doubt one of the reasons that the Vikings were able to get a win on Sunday and remain tied for first place in the NFC North.
While Sherels isn’t getting compared to Deion Sanders, the player he grew up idolizing, just yet, he has a story worth telling. The average NFL career is only about three and a half years. If Sherels can stay healthy, he’ll have no problem reaching that. Currently third in the NFL in punt return yardage and average yards-per-return, Sherels has proven that even if he wasn’t highly sought after, he belongs.
Outside the Redzone gives you Breaking Sports News, Opinion and Analysis with a Southeastern Feel and be sure to “Like” us on Facebook!